ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

Kerry says he's in a "fighting mood" with two months left to go in the campaign, the AP's Nedra Pickler reports. LINK

Gen. Wesley Clark hammers Bush as "incompetent" and "indecisive" before introducing Kerry in Tacoma, the Boston Globe's Glen Johnson reports. LINK

Let us channel Ken Mehlman: how can the Kerry campaign be held accountible for the hypocrisy of claiming to take such attacks off the table, and yet countenancing them at official events? And saying that Clark has "earned" the right to say whatever he wants doesn't square the circle.

Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile dishes advice to Kerry-Edwards in Newsweek: message matters, minimize mistakes. On debates, she counsels, "absolutely no narrowing of the eyes, sighs or glancing at his watch.." Newsweek/">LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

Time magazine's Mark Schulman looks at the loads of interesting stuff in the latest Time poll, showing Bush in a statistical dead heat with Kerry, claiming 46 percent support to Kerry's 44 percent, with 5 percent for Ralph Nader and 3 percent undecided. Schulman also serves up some details for Kerry, including a drop in his favorability rating (44 percent today, down from 53 percent in early August) and favorability among Kerry supporters dropping from 91 percent to 84 percent. LINK

"'John Kerry would make -- I have no problem with him being president. I think he'd be fine. I just think Bush would be a better president.''' So sayeth Sen. John McCain to Newsweek's Melinda Henneberger. Newsweek/">LINK

Mark Johnson of the Charlotte Observer takes stock of Cheney and Edwards, finding that "Rarely have the styles and characteristics of two national candidates been so sharply different." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

As many as 20 percent of voters will cast their ballots before Nov. 2, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. LINK

The Electoral College: bag it, writes the New York Times' ed board. LINK

SWBVf"T":

In one of the press' first attempts to deal with its collective guilt over weeks of blanket , he-said/he-said Swift Boat coverage, David Halbfinger of the New York Times looks at the starkly different choices Bush and Kerry made in the 1960s after starting in the same place. LINK

The New York Times' Todd Purdum looks at war of culture and world view underlying the Vietnam fight that people are still having today. LINK

Asked who served more heroically during the Vietnam War, President Bush told Matt Lauer in an interview, "I think him going to Vietnam was more heroic than my flying fighter jets. He was in harm's way and I wasn't." Bush added: "On the other hand, I served my country. Had my unit been called up, I would have gone." LINK

Free-speech advocate David Broder of the Washington Post writes that outside groups should be able to run ads. "The institutions and individuals with a stake in the presidential election are far more numerous than two parties and two candidates. All sorts of other groups -- from left and right, from environmentalists to anti-abortionists -- have much riding on the outcome. By what logic are they to be prohibited from running their ads?"

But candidates "ought to be judged by their willingness to tell their supporters" when ads run by political allies have "crossed the line," writes Broder. LINK

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