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1 day until the Republican convention 65 days until election day


You may have heard that this presidential election is by all accounts expected to be a close one.

Our current Electoral College outlook will not disappoint in that vein.

Our new ratings have George W. Bush edging out John Kerry by a single electoral vote (222 to 221) with 95 electoral votes up for grabs. As we have Noted many times before, the road to 270 electoral votes has fewer obstacles for President Bush than it does for John Kerry.

Still, based on our reporting with deep thinkers in both parties, independent analysts, and keen state observers, and on polling and historical data, the reality is that 31 states and the District of Columbia currently look as if they will be innocent bystanders in this presidential election.

Here, then, is our sense of where the states stand -- certain to be updated throughout the fall, and just as certain to cause yelling, disputations, and hissy fits galore.

As always, our Electoral College ratings are a combination of our current sense of where things stand in each state, plus a projection to where we think things will be headed by election day. For obvious reasons, we don't base this exclusively on the latest state polls.

Of course, states can (and likely will) shift category between now and October (and perhaps beyond).

As of today, we have 20 states as "likely Republican" states and 11 states plus the District of Columbia as "likely Democrat" states, bringing the base electoral vote counts to 166 for President Bush and 168 for Sen. Kerry.

That leaves us with 19 battleground states, which we allotted to Bush or Kerry as best we could at the moment.

We have nudged, or forced, six of those states into Bush's column and four into Kerry's column -- making the tough calls about where currently close states will likely end up when the voting actually happens.

However, our trying to squeeze these states onto one candidate's side or the other should in no way diminish any given state's status as a place where the presidential battle is being joined.

When we factor in these battleground assignments, as we said, George Bush leads John Kerry by one electoral vote -- 222 to 221.

That leaves us with nine states (representing a total of 95 electoral votes) still very much up for grabs, and with both sides short of the magic 270.

NEEDED TO WIN: 270 electoral votes

Here is what has changed since our last electoral college update in June: LINK

1. Louisiana has been removed from the battleground list and placed in the "likely Republican" category.

2. North Carolina has been added to the battleground states, although it still is leaning Republican.

3. We have moved Florida and Nevada from Republican leaning (or "pushed") battleground states to toss-ups.

4. We have moved Iowa and Minnesota from Democratic leaning (or "pushed") battleground states to toss-ups.

5. And in what may be our most provocative move, we have pushed the battleground state of Pennsylvania from the "toss-up"category to a Democratic leaning (or "pushed") battleground state. No less an authority than Karl Rove told Fox News Channel's Brit Hume this week that the President was running a bit behind John Kerry in the Keystone State.

This morning, the New York Times op-ed features a particularly tasty treat for anyone -- what are we saying? -- EVERYONE!! -- who's not only interested in this Republican convention, but who's contemplated political and convention history. It's The Note's own Republican convention quiz, rendered in a beautiful graphic that we can't link to directly here, but we can get you in the neighborhood. LINK

Today, President Bush flies to Wheeling, WV to campaign and then returns to the White House.

Vice President Cheney attends a rally with New York Gov. George Pataki and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Ellis Island at noon ET. At 5:00 pm ET, he has a podium check at Madison Square Garden.

Sen. John Kerry is in Nantucket where he will remain there with no public schedule until Wednesday, Aug. 31, when he flies to Nashville, TN to address the American Legion convention.

At 3:30 pm ET, Sen. John Edwards flies from Washington to Wilmington, NC. On Monday at 11 am ET in Wilmington, Edwards will deliver a critique of President Bush's foreign policy with Gen. Wesley Clark by his side. Following the speech, Edwards will make himself available for network interviews.

Former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton speak at Riverside Church, New York, NY.

Nobody knows how many protesters will show up today or what will happen when they begin to move around, but the media is/are all over it.

It's safe to say: there WILL be some arrests.

Republican National Convention:

The Washington Post's Dan Balz -- who is constitutionally obligated to write a must-read on the Sunday before every national political convention -- outlines what President Bush and his party need to accomplish this week, looking at how the GOP is focusing on President Bush's strengths as a leader on terrorism and successful in keeping America safer, shifting in an attempt to counter opposition to the war in Iraq and economic disappointments. LINK

While polls are showing the President in a positive position going into the convention, "the sense of relief that Bush's condition looks better than expected did little to obscure deeper concerns among Republicans about the overall race that still tilts against the president and about the importance of using the convention to move the contest more decisively in his direction," Balz writes.

The New York Times' David Sanger Notes the President's preparation for the convention this week, edging his campaign's message toward the center, "stripping his speeches of strong ideology, emphasizing economic pragmatism, even admitting to making what he casts as modest errors in judgment in the Iraq war. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Barabak on Bush's task this week while he's running in a race that is statistically tied - forward-looking, agenda-setting, and maybe a little less Kerry-bashing (or not). LINK

Republican National Convention: the President:

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney paints an absolute must-read picture of President Bush's personal involvement in his campaign -- if not in the driver's seat, then navigating, surely -- from looking at early ad cuts to talking tactic and strategy -- poll numbers, campaign activity and state voter registration numbers -- with Karl Rove in morning meetings. Nagourney also offers details on the "Breakfast Club" that plots strategy at Rove's home. LINK

(Note to the staff of CharlieRose: BACON!!!!)

"In truth, Mr. Bush has always had a strong taste for politics, and was an important player in his father's presidential campaigns of 1988 and 1992, as well as in his own race in 2000. But his intense involvement this time reflects what aides said was his concern about his prospects, a determination not to repeat the mistakes that he watched his father make in 1992, and lessons he drew from the close election of 2000."

Additional interesting aspects of the story:

1. The help the reporters were given in writing it, with background and on-the-record cooperation from the usually process-averse Bush team.

2. And details such as this: "By 7 a.m., when he is in the Oval Office, aides say, Mr. Bush will frequently tell them about an article they have not seen and tell them to call the reporter and complain." (Guess that settles the question of whether he reads the paper or not . . . )

In an interview with Nagourney, Karl Rove seeks to debunk the myth that he is "the brains behind an intellectually challenged president," and per Nagourney, Rove is the one who raises the Swift Boat issue. LINK

Newsweek's Howard Fineman writes about how the Bush-Rove team this week "reaches the final mile of its own extraordinary pilgrimage, one that began with a chance meeting at the Republican National Committee in 1973," with a moderate convention and having governed right, looking to pull off a bonafide, non-asterisk victory in the fall. Fineman also Notes that the Jedi master has maintained he has no connection to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, despite how nicely the messages of both the group and the campaign dovetail. Newsweek/">LINK

Newsweek's Evan Thomas, Tamara Lipper and Rebecca Sinderbrand offer up a profile of President Bush, a man of confidence who still gets "the deer-in-the-headlights look that still pops up at press conferences, and that annoying smirk, possibly meant to convey an air of disdain or superiority, but showing the defensiveness of a teenager." The trio posit that while Bush "partied hard, dried out, and found a fierce determination," it hasn't been a road without struggle, but once he found the way from chaos to resolution, he has never looked back. Newsweek/">LINK

Part of Thomas and Lipper's Bush interview aboard Air Force One: Newsweek/">LINK

Time magazine's Nancy Gibbs and John Dickerson offer their interview, exploring the virtues of "knowing when not to change." LINK

Gibbs and Dickerson's interview: LINK

The Washington Post's John Harris and Mike Allen identify Bush's decision to sign the prescription drug bill and the "missed opportunity" of his 2004 State of the Union address as two specific misjudgments that have resulted in the "mostly downward arc of Bush's political strength over the past year." LINK

"Same road, very different style." The Los Angeles Times' Abcarian looks at how 43 has found his way in 41's shadow. LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Ron Hutcheson compares the George Bush of today to the George Bush of yesterday, four years younger, four pounds lighter -- and what didn't quite work out the way he thought it would. LINK

The Boston Globe's Michael Kranish on Bush the risk-taking wildcatter. LINK

The New York Daily News' Thomas DeFrank refers to President Bush as "Rambo." LINK

DeFrank has a Sunday double-whammy, the second on the Vice President. "Today, even some of the vice president's biggest fans concede he has become a political liability for his boss." LINK

Former Reagan speechwriter Ken Kachigian advises Bush in the Washington Post to let the country know in his convention speech that he will "do whatever it takes to let the nation know that" he "will not be broken." LINK

Clinton speechwriter Jeff Sheshol writes in the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section that instead of trying to reclaim the mantle of compassionate conservatism, President Bush should unabashedly proclaim what Shesol defines as his principles -- "deficits don't matter . . . tax cuts for the well-to-do create jobs for the rest of us . . . America's allies are more a hindrance than a help . . . security concerns trump civil liberties"-- and let the chips fall where they may. LINK

David Brooks, in the New York Times Magazine cover story, tries to reacquaint Republicans with Republican tradition. "Small-government conservatism is over, and compassionate conservatism never happened. The soul of the party is up for grabs." LINK

Bush's record suggests two presidencies: one before 9/11 and one after, the AP's Tom Raum writes. LINK

The New York Times' James Barron and Marjorie Connolly look at a new Times poll that shows 9/11 families -- despite a political makeup more akin to the rest of the country than to New York City -- are a very specific subsample who view the state of the country on their own terms: "They are more skeptical about national safety and less impressed with the administration's efforts before and after the attacks." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' La Ganga explains how economically hard-pressed Oklahoma bonds with President Bush over moral concerns. LINK

Republican National Convention: platform and politics:

Stefan Friedman of the New York Post learned that Sen. Zell Miller's keynote address will be about as anti-Kerry as can be. He "plans to hit Kerry over his political career -- one that Miller claims has been spent pushing and voting for far-left issues." LINK

Republican National Convention: protests and security:

Protesters oppose the Republican Party, but despite what Republicans think, Democrats haven't embraced them, the New York Times' Diane Cardwell reports. LINK

The New York Times' Randy Archibold talks to anarchist Chuck Munson, who explains what anarchism is all about. LINK

In the words of The Carpenters, "We've only just begun . . . " The Los Angeles Times on Saturday's Planned Parenthood rally which drew thousands. LINK

Tatsha Robertson and Marcella Bombardieri write about a city that never sleeps on high alert, days before the convention. '''We are prepared. The city's secure, it's safe,' says the Homeland Security secretary, Tom Ridge." LINK

The New York Daily News on the mixed history of events on the Great Lawn -- anti-war, pro-war, it's all been there. LINK

Republican National Convention: potpourri:

Our gal Deb Orin tells all from her interview with Laura Bush -- on politics, on the "absurd" comments her husband's opponent has made, on Teresa, and the important stuff. "She revealed that New York designer Oscar de la Renta did the turquoise skirt and jacket that she plans to wear -- barring a last-minute change -- when she addresses the convention Tuesday night." LINK

The New York Times' Rick Lyman on the conscious effort by New York's convention planners to outshine last month's affair in Boston. LINK

Bush Administration officials are warned not to accept freebies while partying in New York, the Chicago Tribune reports. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

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


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

Almost half of Americans think President Bush's campaign is behind the Swift Boat ads that try to undercut Kerry's medals for heroism in Vietnam, according to an Annenberg survey. LINK

Michael Kinsley spoofs the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth with a look at George Bush's secret war. LINK

Battlegrounds: Big Four: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin:

The Columbus Dispatch's Darrel Rowland looks at the brand-new Dispatch poll, which shows bad news for Ohioans sick of their traffic being snarled by motorcades and their television viewing overtaken by campaign ads: President Bush and Sen. Kerry are deadlocked in Ohio, with 46 percent each, Ralph Nader with 2 percent, and 6 percent of voters saying they're undecided.

Of those undecideds, 72 percent said the country is on the wrong track and 75 percent said they disapprove of the way the President is handling the economy (compared with 54 percent of total poll respondents on both questions). Bush led the last Dispatch poll, last month before the Democratic convention, by 3 points, and Rowland Notes that "In a Dispatch Poll from about this time four years ago (Sept. 3, 2000), Bush led Vice President Al Gore by 6 points. The former Texas governor won Ohio by 3.6 points."

Diane Suchetka of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on President Bush's 22nd trip to Ohio since he took office with a speech that veeered little from his traditional stump. LINK

Battleground Florida Notes Battleground Pennsylvania "Still Hasn't Made up Mind." The Orlando Sentinel reports on undecided voters in one of the large battleground states. LINK

Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes about President Bush returning to the city where he once "brandished a bullhorn an launched his war on terrorism," who seeks to influence undecideds and the party faithful. LINK

Who are the 2.6 million "undecided?" An explanation courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer: LINK

Nader-Camejo '04:

"At a hastily arranged convention in an Irving, Tex., hotel, Ralph Nader yesterday accepted the Reform Party's nomination for president, and the ballot lines in seven states, including Florida and Michigan, that come with it," the Washington Post's Jonathan Finer reports. "The event is something of a formality. Nader was nominated by national chairman Shawn O'Hara in a telephone conference call in May and is only being reaffirmed to satisfy a Florida election law that requires nominees to be selected in person." LINK

Politics of national security:

The New York Times' James Risen reports that the FBI is in touch with the Pentagon official suspected of passing U.S. secrets to Israel, and his trying to flip him. LINK

A CIA review "that grew out of the furor over abuses at Abu Ghraib prison now includes scrutiny of the agency's interrogation and detention practices at military-run facilities and other sites across Iraq," the New York Times reports. LINK

George Will agrees with Graham Allison that the preeminent question facing the country is how to prevent nuclear terrorism, but he disagrees with Allison, who is advising Kerry, about who would be best to deal with the threat. LINK

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—11:00 am: Former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton speak at Riverside Church, New York, NY —12:00 pm: Vice President Cheney attends a rally with New York Gov. George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani on Ellis Island, New York, NY —v2:15 pm: President Bush speaks at a rally at the WesBanco Arena, Wheeling, WV —3:00 pm: Volunteers for the DNC's "American Can Do Better" bus tour hold a press conference at City Hall, New York, NY —3:25 pm: New York Gov. George Pataki delivers a "Salute to Broadway" curtain speech at The Lion King, New York, NY —4:00 pm: AIPAC hosts a party featuring Senate Majority Leader Frist, Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman, Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Gov. George Pataki, and House Majority Leader Tom Delay at Chelsea Piers, New York, NY —4:05 pm: New York Gov. Pataki delivers a "Salute to Broadway" curtain speech at Fiddler on the Roof, New York, NY —4:35 pm: New York Gov. Pataki delivers a "Salute to Broadway" curtain speech at Phantom of the Opera, New York, NY —5:00 pm: Vice President Cheney travels to Madison Square Garden for a podium check, New York, NY —9:00 pm: Jenna and Barbara Bush host the "R Stands for Roseland" Party at the Roseland, New York, NY —10:30 pm: New York Gov. Pataki hosts the governor's media party at Elaine's, New York, NY


—9:00 am: Code Pink Women for Peace march in Union Square Park, New York, NY —9:00 am: Not in Our Name, a campaign of the Mind Aid Project, protest Bush's policies of screening for mental illness —10:00 am: 1,000 Coffin Observance March on W. 15th Street, New York, NY —10:00 am: Billionaire croquet party, Central Park, New York, NY —11:00 am: Gays against Bush march, Sheridan Square, New York, NY —12:00 pm: United for Peace and Justice March: No to the Bush Agenda, 7th Avenue and 14th Street, New York, NY —12:00 pm: Million Billionaire March, in front of Plaza Hotel, New York, NY —2:00 pm: Christian Defense Coalition, Church Street between Liberty and Vesey Streets, New York, NY —4:00 pm: Falung Gong, West Side of Park Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, New York, NY —4:15 pm: Billionaires buy Broadway, Hell's Kitchen, New York, NY —6:00 pm: Falun Gong: 8th Avenue and 30th Street, New York, NY