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55 days until Election Day 22 days until the first proposed presidential debate

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Yesterday, we wrote that if the election dialogue is about Iraq, John Kerry can't win.

After we published those words, the day's rhetoric was dominated by Iraq, via statements from the candidates.

And it would not be wrong to say that, for the umpteenth time in a row, John Kerry had no better than a tie in the news cycle.

This despite the reality of the "facts on the ground" events of the day — the much-reported 1,000 American military death in Iraq and the record federal deficit — that should have been easy pickin's, even for the candidate of the Mommy Party.

Today, John Kerry goes to the same Cincinnati hall where George Bush once gave a big speech about Iraq to give his own (yet another . . . ) talk about the topic.

Let us be, as a great man once said, perfectly clear:

If the election debate is about John Kerry's capacity to explain his vote for the war resolution but against the $87 billion, he will lose. (Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post lays out the recent history illustrating our point in a must read LINK)

But there are Kerry aides who argue that Iraq is going to be an issue in this race no matter what, and that there is room for Kerry to maneuver to his advantage (on the much Noted casualty milestone, on the financial cost, on the alienation of some traditional American allies).

Dick Cheney certainly raised the stakes in the national security war of words yesterday, and Kerry aims to do the same thing today.

In his speech, Kerry is expected to try to finally and once and for all clarify his position on the war in Iraq, and to put President Bush on the defensive for how he's conducted the war in Iraq.

"The reason Iraq is an issue in this campaign is NOT over the question of whether it was right to hold Saddam accountable. The reason it is an issue is because of the way George Bush went to war, making the wrong choices and weakening the United States here at home and overseas," reads a campaign memo to reporters.

Kerry is expected to discuss how Bush's "wrong choice to go-it-alone in Iraq without a plan to win the peace has taken the country in the wrong direction and shortchanged priorities here at home."

Expect to see Kerry meld foreign policy, which he once referred to as "two thirds of the job" of president, with his post-Labor Day focus on domestic priorities, hammering on the cost of the war in Iraq and what the money spent by "going it alone" could have gone to in the United States.

" . . . George W. Bush made the wrong choices. He himself now admits he miscalculated in Iraq. In truth, his miscalculation was ignoring the advice that was given to him, including the best advice of America's own military. When he didn't like what he was hearing, he even fired the Army Chief of Staff. His miscalculation was going to war without taking every precaution and without giving the inspectors time. His miscalculation was going to war without planning carefully and without the allies we should have had. As a result, America has paid nearly 90% of the bill in Iraq. Contrast that with the Gulf War, where our allies paid 95% of the costs."

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