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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


— Grover Norquist versus John Podesta

But, in the end, the only sensible way to think of this race is "Bush versus Kerry," and tonight the incumbent gets a chance to lay the foundation of "I have a plan" and to remind people why they like him.

While The Note will judge the speech on just one criterion -- whether the President explains in excruciating detail how he will pay for the transition costs of a Social Security reform plan that includes personal savings accounts -- we are sure others will look at different indices.

Tonight's speech will be, in the President's own words, 43 minutes of "sheer wisdom." More on the speech below.

Sen. Kerry kicks off the post-convention campaign season off at 11:30pm this evening at a rally in Springfield, Ohio with his running mate John Edwards.

Before that, Sen. Edwards also hosts a noon town hall with Pennsylvania voters in Norristown, PA.

Republican National Convention: Bush previews:

Topics and themes that the media has said will be explored: tax reform, Social Security, intelligence, health care, an "ownership" society, education, and worker training. The Columbus Dispatch's Joe Hallet touts, in an exclusive interview with the President aboard Air Force One, "President Bush will ask Americans tonight for a second term by promising to transform government's role at home and abroad, enabling citizens to take advantage of a changing economy while spreading liberty around the world." LINK

The President tells Hallet that the speech is "'43 minutes of sheer wisdom.'"

The Washington Post's Allen and Weisman preview the "Ownership Society" theme. LINK

"Bush's agenda consists almost entirely of expanded or repackaged ideas he has promoted before -- partly because the deficit precludes major new programs. Outside economists said campaign strategists argued this week that the political terrain has shifted dramatically in the president's favor and that specific proposals are unnecessary."

And the duo have these stuffing-filled paragraphs:

"The prime-time address, which is scheduled to last about 50 minutes, will try to characterize the invasion of Iraq as an essential step toward bringing democracy to the Middle East. Bush's speeches during his week-long tour of swing states en route to New York included frequent references to the 'transformational' power of liberty, and aides said he will use that rubric to explain his domestic and foreign agendas."

"Aides said Bush's address will seek to appeal to supporters who fell away as the war dragged on and casualties mounted. The president hopes to reclaim some of that support by devoting part of his speech to describing himself and how he makes decisions. Advisers said Bush will describe much of his record and intentions as "reforming and adapting government," including creating the Homeland Security Department and enacting a prescription drug benefit for Medicare."

"'We're the incumbent party running on an agenda of change. Here's what we want to do: We need to do these reforms. We need to change the government. We need to make it adapt,' said Matthew Dowd, the Bush-Cheney campaign's chief strategist."

Bob Novak cautions President Bush not to follow in his father's footsteps, and lays out a checklist for what Bush needs to accomplish: (1) clear up whether or not he thinks the war on terror is winnable; (2) link his plan for private Social Security accounts to the idea of an "ownership society"; (3) push perma-tax cuts; (4) don't trash Kerry. Why get your hands dirty when the job has been so thoroughly done? LINK

In his syndicated column, Novak gives the Kerry campaign a little protein, comparing President Bush's Iraq "misstatement" to Gerald Ford and Poland. LINK

"In privately confessing that the president made a mistake, his own aides do not go deeper into why he erred. In the Lauer interview, Bush gives the impression that he was not concentrating on one of his final pre-convention interviews, acting as if he really were bored by the process. He obviously meant to say, as he did the next day, that "we may never sit down at a peace table." Instead, he hurried over and blurred the well-rehearsed explanation."

"The lesson for Bush strategists and other Republican politicians is that George W. Bush is no John F. Kennedy who can nonchalantly respond to reporters' questions. At his best, Bush is tightly disciplined in giving answers that have been carefully prepared. He had answered Lauer's question many times before but chose not to Monday, a loss of concentration he will repeat at his own risk in the next two months."

The Washington Post's Broder and Weisman look at the importance of the economy to Bush's re-election, Noting that "some leading Republicans have said that they are worried about a possible voter backlash to economic conditions and that Bush must defend his record on the economy in his Thursday night acceptance speech." LINK

"Rep. Rob Portman (Ohio), a Bush intimate from a state that has been hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs, said that while overall numbers have begun to improve, 'there is an anxiety out there. There is a nervousness about the new economy.'"

There is also some nervousness about this:

"About 10 hours after President Bush accepts his party's nomination tonight, the government will release an important report on the state of the economy. Even some of his allies say that if it is weak it could dampen Republican enthusiasm coming out of the convention and leave Mr. Bush on the defensive for a pivotal issue heading into the campaign homestretch," reports Richard Stevenson of the New York Times. LINK

The topic of terror overshadowed all others reports Dana Milbank on the third day of the Republican Convention. LINK

"This week's Washington Post-ABC News poll shows why. A majority of Americans disapprove of President Bush's handling of the economy, but 60 percent of the country continues to give him high marks in the struggle against terrorism. By 56 percent to 38 percent, Americans trust Bush more than Kerry to fight terrorism -- Bush's strongest issue in the poll."

"Even given the political imperative, the convention's focus on terrorism -- and the charge that Kerry is ill-equipped to combat it -- speeches with barely a mention of the economy, passing reference to domestic policies, and no specific discussion of Bush's agenda for a second term. While the Post poll found public discontent with Bush's handling of Iraq, convention speakers have discussed Iraq as a part of the more popular 'war on terrorism.'"

The Wall Street Journal's John Harwood and Greg Hitt explore whether talking about the second-term agenda will move voters and polls at all in the next two months. They also offer a nice little handicap of the battleground states at the end. Wisconsin, fasten your seat belts.

The Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes offers a must-read look at the debate within the Bush Administration on Social Security and private/personal retirement accounts. It is a must-read.

The Wall Street Journal's Shailagh Murray outlines the has been intense. The party has gone through three hours of prime-time tax-cut priority.

The Los Angeles Times' Chen and Hook will put smiles on Kerry campaign staffers faces today wherever they may be. LINK

". . . a review of Bush's first-term record paints a more complex portrait: While he has been bold and unflinching on some issues -- especially Iraq and tax policy -- on a host of other fronts he has been uncertain, on the sidelines or inconsistent."

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller and Dick Stevenson take a must-read long, detailed look at President Bush's tenure in office. LINK

Walter Shapiro deconstructs President Bush's able leadership in the culture wars. LINK

Republican National Convention: Zell/Cheney ledes:

New York Post wood: "Kobe Walks"

However, the President's endorsement from the New York City firefighters union does score a banner across the top of the page. LINK

In the Daily News, Kobe trumps protestors and the convention.

The New York Times ledes with Russia.

The Washington Post, with Cheney (but the edition that made it to New York has a picture of Zell).

In USA Today, "Cheney assails Kerry's record" by Bill Nichols is an above-the-fold headline, but today's headline for the COVER STORY in the Nation's Newspaper is: "Judge dismisses Bryant sex charge." LINK

(Nichols calls Cheney's speech "sobered but measured." )

The morning shows led with Hurricane Frances, Kobe Bryant, and a wrap of last night's festivities at Madison Square Garden. Each show gave approximately a third of the first half-hour to politics.

We are just amazed at how little commentary there has been about the decision to have Mary Cheney not appear on stage with her sister and parents at the end of the speech. We are certain of a few things -- Mrs. Cheney will be furious about such speculation and talk, and that Mary Cheney is on the campaign payroll and someone whose parents are constantly talking about how proud they are of her.

The two big speeches of the night had much the same themes -- the primacy and urgency of national security in a post-9/11 world and Bush-as-good-man/Kerry-as-bad-man.

Miller was more explicit on the second; Cheney's speech was perhaps more restrained than his usual remarks on the subject.

We can't remember another keynote speech that was about such a limited range of topics. And Cheney's speech barely mentioned the economy, health care, or jobs -- and Miller not at all.

Obviously, the President will hit those things tonight, but the GOP spent one night betting that foreign policy and disqualifying Kerry will win them this race.

Dana Milbank's Washington Post lead said it best: "The theme of the Republican convention on Wednesday night, as on the previous two nights, was unmistakable: Be afraid of terrorists, and be very afraid of John F. Kerry's ability to fight the terrorists."

Like McCain, both men invoked the notion that this is too big and too dangerous a time in America's history to trust an unsteady leader.

We never know how "real people" in the country will react, but it is reasonable to guess, at least, that neither speech was likely aimed at persuading the persuadable, but instead were meant to convince those already committed to feel good about their loyalty to the Bush-Cheney ticket and whip them up.

"It's the terrorism, stupid," leads Ron Brownstein's Los Angeles Times news analysis. LINK

Cheney and Miller "reduced President Bush's case for reelection to virtually a single argument: Bush would be tough and resolute in the war on terrorism and Kerry would be neither," writes Brownstein before he goes on to compare the 2004 Republican laser like focus on terror to the Democratic focus on the economy in 1992.

MoDo doesn't buy the "unscripted," look-he's-a-good-guy moments of Dick Cheney on TV. "Republicans are political killers. They are confident that Americans, in a 9/11 world, are going to be more drawn to political killers who have made some 'miscalculations' on Iraq, as W. put it, than with a shaggy-haired Vietnam War protester whom Bush 41 compares to Hanoi Jane." LINK

Washington Post's John Harris writes that Cheney argued "in taunting language that the Democratic presidential nominee has demonstrated through his public statements and votes that he is unfit to be commander in chief in an age of terrorism." LINK

Watch for the close-up shots in newspapers and magazines today and this weekend of an angry Zell Miller in mid-speech if there remains a shadow of a doubt how much of the mainstream press saw Miller's attack Wednesday night. Nobody's gotten out a Sharpie and drawn horns and a little goatee, but it's not far off.

"The Republican crowd lapped up the red meat Miller sliced off and served up, loudly booing after nearly every Kerry reference," Noticed the New York Post's Stefan Friedman. LINK

Todd Purdum looks at the intersection of politics and policy in Cheney's speech:

"To some it may seem an overdistilled message, discarding much of what the Bush administration has learned, often the hard way, over the past year. It largely ignores discussion of the value of alliances, the need to treat the roots of terrorism, or the requirements of slow, patient diplomacy in places where there are no real military options. Mr. Bush's critics will say it sidesteps the problems of murky intelligence and deeply festering resentments of American power around the world." LINK

"But as Mr. Bush's and Mr. Cheney's advisers have repeatedly said in recent weeks, campaigns and the subtleties of national security policy do not easily mix. So they have settled on a strategy designed to sow doubts about their opponent's character, while hoping that some bold declarations about taking the fight to the enemy would overwhelm memories of the missteps of the past year. "

The Chicago Tribune's Tackett skillfully describes the Vice President's role in the convention and in Administration. "Dick Cheney was made for second billing." LINK

"Quiet and dour, he is most effective behind closed doors, which is where he normally resides. He is to George W. Bush a sage, blunt but discreet political counsel, transforming his office from warm-bucket-of-spit ceremonial to in-the-room influential."

"On Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden, he appeared in a place he typically shuns--the spotlight--to do what he has done best in a long political career: set the table for the boss."

Mark Z. Barabak of the Los Angeles Times looks at back at last night's "aggression" and peeks ahead at what we will learn tonight. LINK

"The address may go a long way toward setting the tone and agenda for the final eight weeks of the neck-and-neck campaign."

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Robin Toner have a great summary of Day Three. LINK

Republican National Convention: Karl Rove:

The Republican National Convention 2004 = Karl Rove's coming out party? The Boston Globe's Jurkowitz Notes the arrival of Bush's Brain all over TV, something he has avoided like the plague till now. LINK

Rove say what?

"So White House senior adviser Karl Rove thinks the war on terrorism is similar to the conflict in Northern Ireland. The rather peculiar comparison surfaced during an interview Wednesday with the Associated Press. 'This is going to be more like the conflict in Northern Ireland, where the Brits fought terrorism, and there's no sort of peace accord with al Qaeda saying, 'We surrender,' ' Rove said." LINK

"Hmm . . . bet that will raise a few eyebrows in Belfast."

"The 30-year conflict between republicans seeking a united, independent Ireland and unionists wishing to retain the link with Britain claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people before a political resolution was achieved in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The leader of Northern Ireland's Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, who is attending the Republican National Convention as a guest of the International Democrat Union, acknowledged that the comments left him a little perplexed."

The Boston Globe's team of Kranish and Healy Note that despite the official White House line, "some of those closest to the president have kept alive the questions about Kerry's Vietnam service and showed they are particularly willing to go after Kerry for his antiwar activities in 1971." LINK

Republican National Convention: money:

"Bush Sues to Stop '527' Groups Backing Kerry," headlines the Post. LINK

No one has yet sued, in the rhetorical sense, the White House for its ledgermain on this entire issue.

Republican National Convention: protests and security:

A "law enforcement source" explains to the New York Daily News how two sets of protestors made it in the Garden yesterday. "People are standing outside their hotels handing out credentials, no questions asked. And it's Republican staffers who are doing it … They want to fill the empty seats." A convention spokeswoman says "that's silly" and denies passes were handed out willy-nilly. LINK

Republican National Convention: battlegrounds:

Detroit Free Press headline: "Cheney: Kerry Unfit to Lead" and it gets more prominent play than Kobe Bryant who also appears on the front page.

Plummeting auto sales (LINK) and Kobe get higher placement on the front page of the Detroit News, but it is the Vice President's photograph that dominates the page. LINK

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "Cheney pounds Kerry on defense" LINK

Toledo Blade: "Cheney leads GOP attack on Bush rival" LINK

Des Moines Register: "Cheney unleashes attack on Kerry" LINK

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Cheney lauds bush's leadership" LINK

Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Cheney, Zell Miller take off gloves" LINK

Raleigh News and Observer: "Cheney calls Kerry indecisive" LINK

Even the Kansas City Star leads with Frances. LINK

Who wins these battleground state of Missouri's Kansas City headlines? LINK

"Democrat slams Kerry for GOP" "Kerry retools message, staff, advertisements" "GOP playing hardball" "Trying times"

Surrogate Schwarzenegger may soon make a Buckeye State campaign swing, reports Joe Matthews of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

"The governor's chief of staff, Patricia Clarey, said late Tuesday that she had discussed the possibility of an appearance there with Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove and campaign manager Ken Mehlman. She said a decision on an appearance was not final and would depend on the governor's schedule and the president's political needs at the time."

More Matthews: "For nearly 25 years in Columbus, Schwarzenegger has owned and sponsored a bodybuilding tournament, the Arnold Classic, which in recent years has grown into a massive convention of the fitness industry. He is also a partner in a local mall, operates a branch of his after-school charity there and keeps the tank he drove in the Austrian army at a military museum in a Columbus suburb."

Republican National Convention: the media:

Be sure to check out ABC's Jonathan Karl's review of "Osama: The Making of a Terrorist" by Jonathan Randal in today's Wall Street Journal on page D16. We're pretty sure that the review might be better than the book.

Republican National Convention: potpourri and 2008:

Ann Gerhart on the Bush twins, day three. LINK

The Republican leader of the New York State Senate predicts George Pataki will not seek reelection in 2006 and will instead begin his quest for the presidency, reports Fred Dicker of the New York Post. LINK

Republican National Convention: op-eds:

George Will: A Goldwater Revival LINK

The New York Times op-ed page solicited thoughts from six Republican administrations about how the President should wrap up his speech and set the tone for the campaign.

William Bragg Ewald Jr.: National Unity: LINK

John Andrews: Upward Bound: LINK

Milton Friedman: What I Learned: LINK

Daniel McGroarty: A Strong Front: LINK

David Frum: Notes of Thanks: LINK

Journalists whine too much about "polarization," writes the Wall Street Journal's editorial board. Truly consequential leaders always polarize, and ya gotta break some eggs to make an omelet.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

Al Hunt writes that Mel Martinez's victory in the Florida primary this week was some nice icing on the cake for Republicans this week, but not only in Florida but in Senate races overall, GOPers shouldn't get out their forks and dig in just yet.

Then he throws in a tantalizing tidbit in the item in which the Kerry campaign poo-poohs the shakeup rumors -- the debate over whether jumping on comments that are clearly a weakness for the President, or windsurfing in Nantucket.

USA Today's Keen has another article about voters' impressions of the candidates' trustworthiness that makes us think of Nicholson as The Joker in Batman. LINK

Dick Morris keys off some Rasmussen "poll" numbers that show how split Democrats are on issues such as Iraq and the war on terror, which may cause problems for John Kerry. LINK

"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."

Pat Healy of the Boston Globe's got it all down, too. LINK

Not on message, the Washington Times uses words like "lukewarm" and "politely received" to describe John Kerry's reception at the American Legion Auxiliary. LINK

"Although many of the American Legion delegates enthusiastically applauded remarks Kerry made earlier in his speech about the need for better veterans benefits, his criticism of the administration's foreign policy was received coolly and the audience was silent as he detailed his view of what has gone wrong in Iraq," writes Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

As the traveling press corps continues to debate ever more restrictive access to Sen. Kerry, it's worth Noting that today, September 2, marks one month since the Democratic nominee has held a full fledged press avail.

And, it was a pretty weak one at that. Kerry took two questions from the full traveling press corps in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after the President announced the creation of a National Intelligence Director.

Kerry held a brief "avail" with the pool in the Grand Canyon but it was not open to the full press.

Sen. Kerry asserts that he is not afraid to tangle with the Fourth Estate and has repeatedly pledged to hold at least one press conference a month if elected president.

On this post-Cheney morning we thought we would give you a sneak preview of what's coming in your Sunday New York Times Magazine. Deb Solomon's 'Questions For' segment stars Elizabeth Edwards. In addition to learning about Mrs. Edwards' poetry writing, we also find out that she didn't think the President took much interest in her when they met.

Question: "Have you ever met the Cheneys?"

Answer: "I sat next to Lynne at the breakfast. I don't think it's possible to find very many women with whom I disagree on so many subjects as I do with Lynne Cheney."

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

Alan Keyes' comments about Mary Cheney and gays aren't going over well with Illinois Republicans -- or Republicans in general at the convention, given spokeswoman Christine Iverson's assertion that his comments are "not worthy of the dignity of a response.'' Guess he's not expecting much in the way of help from the White House this fall. LINK

After a night of hob knobbing with 41 in the coveted family box, Senate candidate Mel Martinez woke to read both Ds and Rs think they've got a good shot at the seat he's vying for in Florida. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

A key deadline to certify elections in Palm Beach County is 11 am today.

But 300,000 residents there have been ordered to evacuate, and the county will most likely postpone any action they take on the election. County offices will close at noon tomorrow, and most workers were sent home early today.

More than 6,000 absentee ballots appear to have been overcounted, triggering a member of the canvassing commission to recommend a full recount of those ballots. The actual vote totals for the races decided in that county do not appear have included the count, so officials believe the origins of the discrpenacy are clerical. A full recount would settle any questions.

Quite ironically, (or poetically, depending on your point of view) this controversy might mark butterfly ballot inventor Theresa LePore's last as Palm Beach County supervisor of elections. She was defeated for re-election yesterday by Dr. Arthur Andersen, who has promised an overhaul of the way this fabled county conducts it selections. She'll stay in office through January.

Ms. LePore is not talking to reporters, perhaps protectively.

Another element of controversy: several hundred absentee ballots were rejected by the canvassing board (comprised of a judge and two county commissioners) because their authors forgot to sign their names. The rules are clear -- ballots must be signed -- but several of the voters and some voting rights groups (associated mostly with liberals and the Democratic Party) called on the board to count the votes anyway.

The upshot of all of this: the biggest issue on election day in November may very well be absentee ballots (because so many people -- as many as 30 percent in some states -- will vote early and because the rules have changed since 2002 and 2000) and provisional ballots (the rules have changed here, too).

Please do not say we didn't warn you.

The Wall Street Journal's Ron Lieber takes a state-by-state look at how absentee voting is becoming easier. LINK


Catch it all today, including David Chalian and Linda Douglass as they deconstruct the battlegrounds at 3:00 pm ET.


Thursday's theme is "A Safer World, A More Hopeful America" — program runs from 7:00 pm to 11:15 pm Speakers include (not in specific order): —Olympic Gold medalists gymnasts Mary Lou Retton and Kerri Strug deliver the Pledge of Allegiance. —Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.) addresses the convention. —President George Bush addresses the convention.


—8:45 am: Lynne Cheney speaks at the History Channel Breakfast at Gracie Mansion, New York, NY —9:00 am:  Vice President Dick Cheney, Lieutenant Governor Jeannette Bradley, Rep. Portman, and Gov. Marc Racicot speak before the Ohio delegation, New York, NY —11:45 am: Elizabeth Edwards holds a living room discussion with military families, North Little Rock, AK —12:00 pm: Sen. Edwards hosts a town hall with Pennsylvania voters at the George Washington Carver Community Center, Norristown, PA —4:30 pm:  Elizabeth Edwards participates in a roundtable discussion on education at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO —5:15 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Supper Club, New York, NY —10:15 pm: President Bush addresses the Republican National Convention, New York, NY —11:30 pm: Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and John Edwards (D-NC) hold a rally at the Heritage Center of Clark County, Springfield, OH


—8:00 am:  Andy Card, White House Chief of Staff, Ralph Reed, BC04 Chairman - Southeast Region, and Dora Bush Koch speak before the Louisiana, South Carolina and Virginia delegations, New York, NY —8:00 am:  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks before the New Hampshire delegation, New York, NY —8:00 am:  Karl Rove speaks before the Wisconsin delegation, New York, NY —8:00 am:  Matt Dowd, BC04 chief strategist, speaks before the Michigan delegation, New York, NY —9:00 am:  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks before the Arizona and Oregon delegation, New York, NY —10:00 am:  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Tucker Eskew, BC04 Senior Advisor, and Alberto Gonzales, WH counsel speaks before the Ohio, California, and Oklahoma delegation, New York, NY —11:00 am:  Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) attends the California delegation lunch, New York, NY —1:30 pm:  Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former President Bill Clinton visit the NY State Fair, Syracuse, NY —11:00 pm:  Jenna and Barbara Bush attend the Next Generation Convention Party, New York, NY