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56 days until Election Day 23 days until the first proposed presidential debate

NEWS SUMMARY

There are only five things you need to know about the presidential race today:

1. Isn't it incredible that the ostensibly most sophisticated people in politics are the first ones to wildly overreact to polls?

The Gang of 500 spent Labor Day asking each other if the race is over.

And they will be the first to make up a meta-narrative "comeback" for Kerry if post-Time/Newsweek/Gallup poll numbers this week show the race tighter.

2. This is an exact formula — if more than 31 of the 56 days left until election day are fought in the New York Times and on the network news over Iraq, President Bush will be re-elected.

And it won't be easy for Kerry to keep it below that number of 31. Bush's and Kerry's traveling press corps — like the boys 'n' girls on the bus before them — are obsessed with an artificial "overshadowed by" daily storyline.

And 2004's version of choice involves a very sensitive tripwire for Kerry's domestic message of the day being (all together now, in one big media chorus, led by featured performers Carl Quintanilla and David Halbfinger!) "overshadowed by" a fight with President Bush over Iraq.

And the Bush campaign is brilliant about picking that fight.

3. Read — courtesy of the New York Times — the colloquy that John Edwards had in St. Paul yesterday with a voter — and know in your heart that the voter was standing in for every panicky/panicking Democratic donor, member of Congress, and political consultant:

"Katie Simenson, 41, a massage therapist, accused the Democratic ticket of letting Republicans suggest that Mr. Edwards had taken frivolous cases as a lawyer and that Mr. Kerry was a waffler and soft on defense."

"'They're going to run you right over and make you look like idiots,' Ms. Simenson said."

"Mr. Edwards sought to answer, promising 'to fight every day between now and Election Day" and assuring her that Mr. Kerry "is strong, courageous and he is a fighter.'"

"'And I like to believe I am the same thing,' he said. But Ms. Simenson shook her head."

"'We will — don't shake your head! — we will fight,'' Mr. Edwards continued. 'No, we will fight every way we know how. But we are fighting for you, we are not fighting with these politicians. George Bush wants to fight with politicians. We are fighting for you. We want to make your life better — don't argue with me, let me finish. We're going to stand up — I let you talk, let me finish — we're going to stand up for the things that we believe in.'"

The voter, apparently, was no more convinced than those panicky/panicking Democratic donors, members of Congress, and political consultants currently are.

4. Read the last two paragraphs of the day's only must-read, Adam Nagourney's "where we are" tour de force in the New York Times : LINK

"Republicans and Democrats say the biggest problem for Mr. Bush is the sense among Americans that the country is headed in the wrong direction."

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