ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

"Last night, Dick Cheney said that 'America sees two John Kerry's' and that Kerry's 'liveliest disagreement' is with himself. But that's not Kerry's biggest problem. His real conundrum is that his voters disagree with one another on almost every major foreign-policy and terrorism issue. So, no matter what Kerry says, he will alienate a goodly portion of his voters."

Wonder if Russell Gold's Wall Street Journal story will see any play in oppo memos today. Headline: "Halliburton Uncovers Talk of Bribes." Subhead: "Review of Nigerian Project Finds Payments Discussed To Help Win Huge Contract."

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

Was Kerry's well written and well delivered Iraq speech yesterday the beginning of the turning-point surge?

As Joe Lockhart would say — only time will tell.

Sometimes the assignment of covering the Kerry campaign seems like it boils down to -- is Stephanie Cutter more Betty or more Veronica? But it really IS more complicated than that.

"Under fire from some in his own party for failing to draw crisp and clear differences with Bush over the war in Iraq, military service and terrorism, the Democratic nominee offered one of his sharpest and most detailed explanations of how he would have handled the conflict and its aftermath differently," writes Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post. LINK

" … Of more concern to the Kerry campaign, first lady Laura Bush and former president George H.W. Bush said this week that the attacks on Kerry seemed like fair game. Lockhart said Kerry may respond to these charges himself in the days ahead."

"While reports of a broader staff shakeup are overblown, there are many Democrats who told Kerry to elevate the role of Lockhart and Joel Johnson, another veteran of the Clinton White House who just joined the team. Kerry was also advised to reconfigure the department responsible for managing the message, arguably the most important job in politics — dominated by round-the-clock media coverage. One Democrat said James Carville, Clinton's top strategist, is urging the campaign to bring on Paul Begala, who worked with Carville, in a senior position to help with message and strategy. Begala is a Kerry friend who already informally advises the campaign."

Good insider stuff, too:

"Several Kerry friends privately told the candidate to quit micromanaging smaller details, such as speeches, which he spends a lot of time writing and refining on the road. The Kerry campaign is getting tagged with a criticism that haunted Al Gore in 2000: It spends too much time reacting to polls and focus groups. The target of some of that criticism is Bob Shrum, who was a senior strategist for Gore." LINK

"There is disagreement inside the campaign over who is to blame for the belated response to the attacks on the Kerry's war service. Kerry has told some Democratic friends he wanted to strike back hard weeks ago, but several advisers talked him out of it because polls and focus groups showed a negative response could backfire. Yet one aide said Kerry privately conceded that he, like most of his top staff, miscalculated the impact of the attacks by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the influence of 24-hour cable news in shaping public opinion, and thought the controversy would blow over. One Kerry friend said the candidate focuses on more traditional news outlets and lacks a sophisticated understanding of modern media. 'You would think he would have recognized this five years ago,' the friend said."

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