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7 days until the Republican convention 71 days until election day

NEWS SUMMARY

The big political moment of the day comes when the president speaks at a press availability this morning in Crawford, gets the expected Swift Boat question, and decides in both tone and substance how to answer.

So, while we wait to see what those remarks do for the velocity and vector direction of all this, let's review the bidding on the story both campaigns claim (with some credibility) that they would like to see go away, and yet are powerless — so far — to stop:

—What the Los Angeles Times wrote last Tuesday is more true — not less true — after a weekend of reporting by several serious news organizations:

"What military documentation exists and has been made public generally supports the view put forth by Kerry and most of his crewmates — that he acted courageously and came by his Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts honestly. This view of Kerry as war hero is supported by all but one of the surviving veterans who served with him on the two boats he commanded." LINK

"None of the critics quoted in the ad actually served on the boats with Kerry. Some of them also have given contradictory accounts and offered conflicting recollections."

—There is no sign that the controversy has fundamentally affected the race (There is no dramatic change in the horserace number … ), but plenty of feeling that it can erode Kerry's credibility and tarnish his war record.

—This blind quote in the New York Times from a Democrat "close" to the Kerry campaign is very key: "When you're basically running on your biography and there are ongoing attacks that are undermining the credibility of your biography, you have a really big problem."

—There are smart Democrats who think this is all horrible for Kerry; there are ones who think an eventual backlash against the president and a focus on Kerry's war record will be good in the end. And there are smart Republicans on both analytical sides as well.

—There is no evidence that the Bush campaign is orchestrating the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and the known ties between them are significantly less close than between John Kerry's campaign and the 527s supporting him.

—The traditional media has shown no capacity to resist the story — for a week and counting this stuff has been the dominant narrative of the presidential race.

—In the days left before November, name all news organizations who will devote more space and time to the health care proposals of President Bush and Sen. Kerry than to Senator Kerry's war record. (The answer: none.)

—If John Kerry can't build a campaign organization that can de-fang 250 guys spending a million bucks, how good a president could he possibly be?

—The greatest political effect all this will probably have on the outcome of the election is to give the conservative base many reasons to get all riled up in hating John Kerry the way the left hates George Bush — and, as Matthew Dowd will tell you, firing up the base is the way this election will be won.

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