ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

"In the course of about a month, Bush had found a way to level the playing field on the one issue on which he was most vulnerable. . . . And Kerry helped him at every step. . . .Perhaps what's most frustrating for Kerry's supporters is that his position is not that complicated — and is intellectually defensible." LINK

Time's Joe Klein tries to deconstruct why Kerry's having trouble gaining a foothold on terror — even in the aftermath of Cheney's controversial comments. LINK

"Kerry seems unable, or unwilling, to confront Bush directly on this ground. Every word he utters about Iraq smacks of politics. Last week he finally said the war was 'wrong,' but then — in a crass, consultant-driven moment — turned the disaster into a financial transaction."

Johnny Apple on Sunday explored this election's ground zero, Ohio, and wonders why if things are ripe for Kerry's picking, President Bush seems to be running strong. LINK

On Sunday, Dan Balz of the Washington Post sized up the smaller battleground and writes "the 10 most competitive states are, in order of electoral vote strength, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire." LINK

John Broder offered up a New York Times Week-in-Review piece on Sunday that wondered if Republicans are tougher and rougher than Democrats on the campaign trail. LINK

Note to Mr. Broder, who should know better: the '88 Bush campaign did not make the famous Willie Horton ad.

On Sunday, the Boston Globe 's Anne Kornblut outlined the flip-flop charges flying from both the Bush side and the Kerry side at one another. LINK

Check out the Nicolle Devenish and Stuart Stevens quotes.

On Saturday, the Washington Post 's Dana Milbank and Lisa Rein Noted an escalation in the president's rhetoric:

"Friday was the first time Bush made the accusation that Hussein would still be in power if Kerry's view had prevailed, although Cheney has said it several times. Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer did not directly rebut Bush's allegation but said: "Dick Cheney crossed the line earlier this week, so it's no shock that George Bush is following his lead." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: polls:

Brian Braiker writes up the latest Newsweek poll, which shows President Bush's post-convention bounce narrowing to 6 points, with the Bush-Cheney ticket leading the Kerry-Edwards ticket, 49 percent to 43 percent — and 2 percent for Ralph Nader. The survey also shows President Bush's approval rating dropping to 48 percent, and his favorability rating slipping to 52 percent. Yet 60 percent of registered voters said they think the president will win reelection in 50 days. LINK

Mark Schulman writes up Time magazine's latest poll, which shows President Bush leading Senator Kerry among likely voters, 52 percent to 41 percent, with Ralph Nader at 3 percent — considerably different from the Post -Democratic convention poll that showed Kerry with 48 percent and Bush with 43 percent. LINK

"Troubling for Kerry is that the Republicans have continued to shift the nation's agenda toward terrorism, a Bush stronghold, and away from the economy, as the voters' decisive issue. Terrorism is now at 26%, up 8 points from early August, among registered voters."

President Bush and the National Guard: the politics of the documents:

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