ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

The New York Times ' Jodi Wilgoren writes up Sen. Kerry's weekly debate challenge to President Bush. LINK

The Washington Post 's Eric Weiss reports that a new Annenberg Election survey shows veterans overwhelmingly pick President Bush, 56 to 38 percent, over Sen. Kerry. LINK

The latest Census numbers on poverty levels and those Americans without access to health care should in theory be devastating to President Bush's reelection effort, but Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times explains why they may not be. LINK

"But the trends' ultimate effect may turn on whether Sen. John F. Kerry can exploit these issues more effectively than he has in his Democratic presidential campaign."

The New York Times ' David Leonhardt gets into more specifics: median income rose at the same rate as inflation, but the gap between rich and poor grew, poverty grew for single-parent families, and families that make less than $75,000 a year were more likely to be uninsured. LINK

The Washington Times gives voice to the Heritage Foundation's rebuttal on the new poverty figures. "It's important to recognize that the census poverty figures … are one year old. They cover 2003, not the current year," says Robert Rector, a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation. LINK

The Washington Post 's world-weary-but-wonderful Connolly and White on the census numbers. LINK

The Washington Post 's wonky Jim VandeHei on Kerry yesterday. LINK

The Washington Post 's wacky Dana Milbank on Bush yesterday. LINK

More NOD: John Thune and John Kerry find common ground. Bring on the debate over debates! LINK

Wars in the land of 5+2 = 7:

The Los Angeles Times' super duo James Rainey and Michael Finnegan write the media interest in the controversy surrounding John Kerry's Vietnam service appeared to be "waning." LINK

"One Kerry campaign operative predicted that the furor over the Vietnam ad was waning, saying, 'Two days from now, a lot of these stories are going to start fizzling out.'"

The duo also Notes the McClellan "shadowy" count was at 18 yesterday aboard the Air Force One gaggle.

Dan Balz and his Washington Post colleagues sat down with John McCain, who told them it's more important for Bush to oppose all 527s than to condemn the Swift Boat Veterans' ad, that he didn't deliver Bush an ultimatum over the ad because it would have affected his "reelectability," and that questioning Kerry's post-war activities is different, to a point, than questioning his war record. LINK

"I think his activities after the war open, and are subject to, any debate and discussion that they want to, but I still say that it has the effect of reopening these wounds. Everybody is accountable for what they do, and certainly John Kerry is accountable for what he did after the war, and people can make a judgment."

That "reelectability" line is either total Straight Talk or total mumbo jumbo!!!

Ryan Lizza has a semi-definitive piece on the Kerry campaign's communications strategy to handle the Swifties, writing that the campaign believed the rules of the road changed on them midstream. If it weren't for cable and conservative echo chamber, the campaign could well have ignored the charges and went forth on that assumption initially. Lizza still finds much to be desired in how the campaign responded.

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