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61 days until Election Day The 60-day electioneering communication ban begins tomorrow.

NEWS SUMMARY

Those politicos and interest groups who have been doing polling, focus groups, and dial-a-meters this week are so far keeping their data to themselves, so we can only guess how the convention is playing with real people.

And now the hurricane, the dismissal of the Kobe Bryant charges, and the Russian hostage crisis threaten to limit the bounce-inducing echo chamber of the last two night's of the Gotham confab.

Still there is no mistaking that today, the Bush campaign is feeling in control and confident, and the Kerry campaign is trying to stifle intra-party feelings that are running from panic to disquiet.

If you can't instantly see all the practical and semiotic implications of the following amazing background quote obtained by the Washington Post's Allen and Weisman, you should probably hang up your Howard Fineman Thinking Cap:

"'The [Bush] strategists are saying, 'Everything is breaking our way. It's looks like it's almost over,' ' said one close adviser (to the President) who demanded anonymity. In this climate, the political strategists believe they have no reason to offer plans that would give opponents new targets to attack."

So how will the media judge the mere presidential outline of a domestic agenda -- as opposed to one with charts and graphs?

There are no more than five nights left this year when the entire national political press corps will be gathered in one place.

That leaves 56 days when reporters will be forced to think on their own about how to frame this election.

Here is a list of some perfectly sensible (or, at least, common) ways to think about the presidential battle:

— national security versus the economy

— base voters versus swing voters

— Blaise Hazelwood versus Michael Whouley

— wrong track versus right track

— wrong track versus Kerry's unfavorables

— Nicole Devenish versus Stephanie Cutter

— Robert Paduchik versus J.B. Poersch

— Laura versus Teresa

— BC04 general election ads vs. KE04 general election ads (including two new ones out tomorrow!)

— the promise of a brighter, Don Evans-style future versus a Herbert Hoover job loss record

— the cult of W versus the loathing of W

— a twenty-year (non-)record versus a four-year record

— Blake Gottesman versus Marvin Nicholson

— "stay the course" versus "it's time for a change"

— Crawford versus Nantucket

— Jim Baker versus Vernon Jordan

— new schools in Baghdad versus new schools in America

— Bob Taft versus Bob Taft

— Nader access versus Nader exclusion

— lower taxes versus more health care

— Osama bin Laden versus Osama bin Laden

— Jan van Lohuizen versus Mark Mellman

— "razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan" versus ""I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes" (and "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service")

— the Twins versus the Kerry/Heinz kids

— the Chamber of Commerce versus the AFL-CIO

— Ben Ginsberg versus Bob Bauer

— "young and irresponsible" versus "young and loose lipped"

— pre-emption versus coalition

— Canton, OH versus Orlando, FL

and

— Grover Norquist versus John Podesta

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