ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

"In a phone conversation between the two men, Kerry acknowledged that his own campaign performance has lacked the precision and clarity that he feels is necessary to beat President Bush, aides added."

"'The candidate told Sasso that he wants to put the choice this November before the American people in very clear, simple language, that he feels that hasn't been happening,' a senior adviser to Kerry said yesterday. 'When all is said and done, if we feel we've put the choice between Kerry and Bush before people and they know the options, they may not vote for Kerry, but we've done all we can do. The candidate hasn't felt that's been happening nearly as much as it needs to.'"

On Sunday, the Boston Globe 's Eileen McNamara made the case that Sasso isn't the guy to fix John Kerry's fortunes. LINK

Deb Orin of the New York Post loved Mary Matalin's "Meet" observation about troubled women campaign managers so much that she decided to lead her 'Kerry in trouble' story with it. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times assesses the state of the race. After going through Kerry's recent failures, Brownstein calculates the balance between "reassurance" and "persuasion" and determines Kerry needs to spend more time on the later. LINK

". . . the forceful case for continuity that Bush offered at his convention has compounded Kerry's problem. The Democrat was already failing to harvest enough of the constituency for change. Now he faces the additional risk that the change constituency itself will shrink after Bush's energetic effort to remind voters of what they liked about his record."

We also love Brownstein hammering home one point: "To repeat: More than anything the candidates do, events may determine whether Bush tips above or below that line."

Bob Novak writes that Republican strategists were confused about Kerry's "newest tactic: going to Springfield, Ohio, for a midnight rally targeting both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for missing combat in Vietnam." [They] figured Kerry would want to close the door on investigation of his own combat record. He instead delivered a glancing blow at Cheney's student draft deferments 40 years ago and then, in a meandering stump speech, drifted from health care to Iraq and back to health care. His late-night audience, in the picturesque Ohio town square, seemed anesthetized." LINK

"There never has been any doubt about Bush's tactics. Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman and the rest of his campaign team believe in the efficacy of negative politics. Attacking the opponent early and often is actually recognized, however privately, by operatives of both parties as the way to win elections. That is why Kerry's recent behavior is puzzling, especially when compared with Bush's plan."

The Los Angeles Times' Nick Anderson does some truth squadding of all that campaign rhetoric flying around the stump. LINK

The New York Times ' William Safire says that Democratic criticism of Kerry's campaign focus "caused Kerry to overreact. Instead of moving away from the Vietnam issue, which has been a real toothache for his campaign, he bit down on it. Uncharacteristically, he took the low road, overtly contrasting his war duty with Dick Cheney's draft deferments." LINK

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