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11 days until the Republican convention 75 days until election day

NEWS SUMMARY August tinder that would be October firestorms —

The Washington Post looks at one of the key members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, laying down not the first (nor the last) journalistic suggestion that the group's name is more ironic than Dickensian. LINK

A1: "Newly obtained military records of one of Sen. John F. Kerry's most vocal critics, who has accused the Democratic presidential candidate of lying about his wartime record to win medals, contradict his own version of events."

The Bush campaign's performance 3/5th of the way through "Intelligence Week" has been boffo so far.

Yesterday's missile defense cameo by the not-involved-in-this-campaign SecDef Rumsfeld was exquisitely timed coincidence, and helps with the succinct summary of the state of affairs laid out by the Washington Post 's own Okie, Lois Romano: "Kerry has in the past 10 days been put on the defensive on national security with a barrage of partisan challenges to his Vietnam service record, his war wounds, his commendations for valor, and his fitness to serve as commander in chief."

And here, buried in Paragraph 6, is our lede: Watch Sen. Kerry today at his morning firefighter event, and there's a new ad. Today, simply put, is pushback day.

The KE04 campaign is releasing a new ad responding to the Swift Boat charges today — a 30-second spot entitled "Rassmann," featuring former Green Beret Lt. Jim Rassmann talking about Kerry's service in Vietnam, which will air in the states where the SBVfT claims were first aired — including West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

The exact size of the this first campaign buy since the convention is TBD (The campaign says it will match the SBVfT buy, but its political impact will be felt no matter what.)

And judging from the campaign's statement, it's going nuclear.

"This truth knows no party labels. In fact, Republican Senator John McCain called the television ad run by these Bush supporters 'dishonest and dishonorable,' and called on President Bush to condemn it. Nearly two weeks later, the president still refuses to join Senator McCain in setting the record straight — just as he refused to disavow or condemn hateful and vicious attacks on Senator McCain's military record during the Republican primary in South Carolina in 2000."


John Kerry:"I'm John Kerry and I approved this message."

Narrator: "The people attacking John Kerry's war record are funded by Bush's big money supporters. Listen to someone who was there, the man whose life John Kerry saved."

Lt. Jim Rassmann: "It blew me off the boat. All these Viet Cong were shooting at me. I expected I'd be shot. When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his live to save mine."

Narrator: "The Navy documented John Kerry's heroism, and awarded him the Bronze Star. Today, he still has shrapnel in his leg from his wounds in Vietnam."

The First Lady does her best imitation of Brent Bozell in an interview with the Washington Times . LINK

"' … I think it's obvious in some parts of the media … that there's a bias … Or an agenda … .' The first lady said she has resigned herself to the reality that conservatives seeking the presidency must work harder than liberals in order to compensate for the liberal bias of the press."

Dow Jones Owl-Eyed David Rogers touts GOP Representative Doug Bereuter's turning against the Iraq war as huge and deserving of the LaHood Award.

And Ray LaHood agrees!!!

Drudge gets it wrong in touting Mike McCurry as poised to draw a Kerry paycheck.

But there are those who are Harbouring a willingness to Park themselves at 15th and Eye Streets. (Note apology: that's mostly for insiders … .)

The Wall Street Journal 's brilliant Greg Ip stumbles into the minimum wage ballot measures in Florida and Nevada — the gay marriage of the left.

Bush campaign policy director Tim Adams does his best John Kerry imitation, saying the president "is willing to consider any reasonable proposal that phases in an increase over an extended period of time — provided it would not place unreasonable costs on small businesses or other job creators."

David Broder loses out to John Harwood by one day, with his own nifty look at the power and influence of early voting. LINK

The Dean gives his stamp of approval to said early voting.

Kit "The Artist Formerly Known as an Inky" Seelye goes to Pennsylvania to look at Democratic ballot challenges to Ralph Nader. LINK

And Kit proves again to be the master of the kicker quote.

On the day when Ralph Nader has to submit ballots to get onto the Ohio ballot, Sen. Kerry is the only one out and about.

At 9:00 am ET he makes his news with an addresses that International Association of Fire Fighters' annual convention in Boston and then travels to Derry, NH, for a front porch event, where he is expected to jump on a new study that finds higher health has care has cost Americans jobs and reduced job quality.

The campaign claims 40,000 New Hampshire residents have lost their health care under Bush.

Other than that, there's a whole lot of vacation:

Following his third bus tour of Wisconsin, President Bush is down at his Crawford ranch until Thursday, Aug. 26, with only a single event on the schedule: a closed meeting with Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld next Monday.

Sen. Edwards is at his residence in Washington, DC with no scheduled events through Friday.

And Vice President Cheney is in Wyoming with no public events.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney v. Kerry-Edwards:

USA Today 's Jill Lawrence reports on Kerry's VFW appearance and touts the new USA TODAY /CNN/Gallup Poll of Ohio showing "Kerry besting Bush 48%-46% among likely voters, and 52%-42% among registered voters. The poll of 761 registered and 628 likely voters, conducted last Friday through Sunday, had a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points for registered voters and +/-5 percentage points for likely voters." LINK

Wednesday was just another day chock-full of attacks between the two presidential campaigns. Yesterday's was on troop realignment and other issues of national security, and Patrick Healy of the Boston Globe has all the gory details. LINK

Ed Chen and Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times team up to delve into the back and forth on troop redeployment. And for you recipe seekers out there, apparently, "16 allusions to his military service in the 34-minute speech" makes for a "heavily salted" John Kerry appearance. LINK

"The differing stances by Kerry and Bush on troop redeployment help bolster both men's military credentials. Bush, who did not see combat in Vietnam but served in the Texas Air National Guard, can show his empathy for soldiers by bringing them and their families home. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, can appear tough on military issues by saying the troops need to stay abroad, while demonstrating his interest in maintaining cooperation with allies."

Sen. John Kerry calls President Bush's plan to recall troops from Europe and South Korea dangerous and shortsighted, Notes Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times .

"The president's vaguely stated plan does not strengthen our hand in the war on terror. It in no way relieves the strain on our overextended personnel. It doesn't even begin until 2006, and it takes 10 years to achieve," Kerry told a VFW convention in Cincinnati. "This hastily announced plan raises more doubts about our intentions and our commitment than it provides real answers." LINK

Doug Feith argues on the Washington Post 's op-ed page that President Bush's plan to restructure the military will make the forces stronger, and help U.S. relationships with American allies. The undersecretary of defense for policy also says changing deployments in East Asia will allow more flexibility in dealing with threats from North Korea. LINK

The Washington Post 's Dana Milbank reports that the Bush and Kerry camps are coming to they-said/they said blows over the terms for the intelligence briefings that Sen. Kerry would typically receive, delaying overview. Bush people say Kerry's logistical preferences — i.e., out of Washington — and the request for advisers to participate is a problem, while Kerry people say the administration is dragging its heels on OKing security clearances for the meetings. LINK

"The result is that at a time when access to sensitive intelligence is more important than ever for national leaders, a skirmish between the White House and the Kerry campaign has postponed the sort of intelligence-sharing that has been standard during presidential races over the past half-century."

Milbank's last graf takes a historical peek at how the briefings have been run in the past. Clip and save, everybody!

Looking for the women who don't fit the mold — Ron Fournier looks at women voters and who the campaigns are targeting. "Polls show that single women generally favor Democrats, married women lean Republican, elderly women are more Democratic. Bush and Kerry are targeting swing-voting women such as Burnosky who defy categorization with their independence."LINK

USA Today 's Rick Hampson reports on the efforts to get young eligible voters registered AND voting. The skepticism in this piece is heavier than that felt by a test audience for an M. Night Shyamalan film. LINK

Hampson also looks at the Homeric journey of Rock the Vote. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Bill Clinton and John Kerry will both read this one with interest:

The New York Times ' David Kirkpatrick reports that a/the key adviser on Catholic issues to the Bush campaign, Deal Hudson, announced yesterday in a column on National Review online that he is resigning as a BC04 adviser "because of a Catholic newspaper's investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct involving a female student at a college where he once taught." Hudson is the "publisher of the conservative Roman Catholic journal Crisis and the architect of a Republican effort to court Catholic voters." LINK

In a New York Times must-read, Dick Stevenson examines the president's rhetoric on defense and military issues on the trail this week, Noting that the emphasis "appeared intended to position him as an innovative, forward-looking commander in chief whose vision extends well beyond the problems he has had bringing Iraq under control." LINK

Stevenson looks at the politics and writes that "the challenge for Mr. Bush is not so much to solidify his standing as the nation's commander in chief as it is to make sure he appears stronger and more reliable than Mr. Kerry. As Mr. Bush's political advisers often say, elections are about choices and comparisons.

And with just two weeks until the President's speech at the Garden, this sentence is probably not what campaign advisers hope to be reading: "The upshot is that Mr. Bush's standing among voters on national security matters is not what he and his advisers had hoped it would be heading into the Republican Convention in New York, which the White House had once assumed would be a perfect setting to showcase the president's standing as commander in chief in a post-9/11 world"

The Washington Post 's Dana Milbank wraps President Bush's trip to Chippewa Falls, WI, where he "proposed new educational benefits for National Guardsmen and reservists." LINK

Milbank Notes the presence of a permanent face on the campaign plane: "Traveling with Bush was Karen Hughes, a key figure in his 2000 election who joined the campaign this week at a salary of about $15,000 per month. 'I took the training wheels off today,' said Hughes, who will travel with Bush for the rest of the campaign."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press report on the president's rally yesterday. LINK and LINK

Jim Lakely of the Washington Times looks at the President's message on the campaign trail yesterday and writes that Bush "is counting on public perception of his handling of the war on terror to carry him to a second term, and this new proposal signals that Democratic charges that Mr. Bush has ignored the needs of veterans at home is getting traction." LINK

USA Today 's Richard Benedetto covers the President's bus trip yesterday. LINK The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Alan Borsuck wraps the President's stops in Wisconsin, including sound bites from Karen Hughes! LINK

Rick Klein looks at the President's ability to give off an average guy vibe to voters by "turning on the folksy charm, hoping to sharpen the contrast with his Democratic opponent." LINK

Klein Notes: "Bush often mentions his Texas upbringing, the importance of religious values, and his mother still telling him what to do. Although he is the son of a president and grandson of a senator, Bush is nevertheless able to convey a sense of wide-eyed wonder about being in the White House."

Klein also gets in a reference to Cheese whiz as an example of the president being "better able to connect with average Americans on a personal level."

Bob Novak writes that "Everybody expects that Bush at Madison Square Garden will propose tax reform. But will the details be scored by the Congressional Budget Office in language that warriors in the class struggle can use?" LINK

The Washington Post 's Hanna Rosin offers up a ringside look at the canned candor of the meet-the-people events of both the Bush and Kerry campaigns, focusing on the remarkably unified crowds at the BC04 "Ask the president" events, and including this paragraph, which we enjoyed — once we picked ourselves up off of the floor: "The campaign insists that the audience is not heavily screened and the questions are not planted. And if protesters are weeded out, that's only a question of hospitality." LINK

Rosin also Notes the way the KE04 camp gets in on the act, just to make sure you didn't think those stories popped up all on their own: "After each 'Ask President Bush' event, the Kerry campaign delights in local press accounts of people kept out."

Does E! have a Raleigh-based correspondent? The Raleigh News & Observer's Lynn Bonner and J. Andrew Curliss report that BC04RNC video of Kerry's statements on the war is going local, with Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) unveiling it at state GOP headquarters in Raleigh. LINK

How many more articles have to be written about Laura Bush being a "surprise star" or secret on the campaign trail before the secret is officially out?

We hope just one more today from the Dallas Morning News' Rena Pederson who Notes: "First lady Laura Bush, once stereotyped as a demure librarian, is barnstorming the country on behalf of her husband with a dogged determination, giving speeches and "working the crowds" until her voice grows husky by the end of the day." LINK

The First Lady sat down with the Washington Times ' Bill Sammon and "laughed incredulously when asked whether the press was fair and impartial in its coverage of a conservative such as President Bush." LINK

"The first lady said she has resigned herself to the reality that conservatives seeking the presidency must work harder than liberals in order to compensate for the liberal bias of the press."

The First Lady told Sammon that her twin daughters would not be making speeches at the Republican convention, saying that her girls were different than the Kerry daughters: younger and new to the campaign trail.

We like that Sammon Noted that the campaign considers the First Lady "their not-so-secret weapon" considering she has been employed "extensively in TV ads and on the campaign trail."

Laura Bush gave a You Go Girl! speech to women entrepreneurs yesterday at the loading dock of an engineering firm in Colorado. John Ingold of the Denver Post reports recent polls show John Kerry leading President Bush "by as many as 11 percentage points among women." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

The New York Times ' Jodi Wilgoren wraps Senator Kerry's speech to the VFW Wednesday during which he indicated that "President Bush's plan to move 70,000 troops out of Europe and Asia was vague and ill-advised in view of the North Korean nuclear threat." LINK

"Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry assailed President Bush's plan Wednesday to dramatically reduce the number of troops stationed around the globe, calling the realignment a potential threat to the nation's security," writes the Washington Post 's Lois Romano. LINK

The Columbus Dispatch's Joe Hallett writes, "The VFW audience, older and Republican-leaning in general, gave Kerry a tepid welcome, far cooler than the reception Bush received Monday." LINK

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Howard Wilkinson reports, "Like the electorate at large, the thousands of veterans at the convention center seemed split over which man is best suited to lead the country in time of war." LINK

"As with the president's speech Monday, about half the VFW crowd stayed in its seats while the other half leapt to its feet and cheered."

As we've reported before, Nevada and Florida have minimum wage hike questions on their November ballot, and the Wall Street Journal 's Greg Ip highlights how that initiatives "could increase voter turnout among Democratic-leaning African-Americans, Hispanics and low-income workers — and possibly boost Democratic nominee Senator John Kerry's showing against President Bush."

The politics of national security:

The Washington Post 's Robin Wright examines the new Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday, which concludes that "Foreign policy and national security concerns are considered more important by Americans this campaign year than at any time since the Vietnam War." Forty-one percent of those surveyed said they think the war in Iraq and terrorism are the two most important issues facing the country, and 26 percent cited economic issues. The key is swing voters, Wright Notes, who "were split over which candidate is stronger on foreign policy and terrorism, the survey found. Swing voters tended to agree more with Democrats on foreign policy issues, but their opinions were closer to Republican positions on combating terrorism, pollsters said." LINK

More on the Pew Poll: 80 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of independents say the U.S. has lost respect in the world, while 47 percent of Republicans say it has. Nearly six in 10 Americans — 59 percent — said they think the Bush Administration is too quick to use force internationally, while 33 percent said the White House tries hard enough to use diplomacy. In addition, 43 percent of Americans said they believe torture is often or sometimes justified to gain information. Fifty-eight percent said they approve of how President Bush is handling terrorism, compared to 42 percent who approve of his handling of foreign policy, and his overall job approval rating of 46 percent.

Want to know what surprised Andrew Kohut most about the latest Pew results?

"'What surprised me most [about the survey] is just how clearly we can see these two counter-patterns — success in the war on terror and disappointment with the war in Iraq,' said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center." LINK

The Boston Globe looks at the Pew poll too. LINK

As does the Washington Times . LINK

The Washington Post 's Bradley Graham reports Secretary Rumsfeld "said Wednesday that he is still working out the rules dictating when and under whose authority to fire a new system to protect the United States from missile attack, and is awaiting a final assessment about the system's readiness to begin operations." LINK

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

If the Washington Post has FOIAd one of the Swifties, the Post has probably FOIAd many of them . . . so this is just the tip of the proverbial spear.

Michael Dobbs: "In newspaper interviews and a best-selling book, Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy Swift boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, has strongly disputed Kerry's claim that the Massachusetts Democrat's boat came under fire during a mission in Viet Cong-controlled territory on March 13, 1969. Kerry won a Bronze Star for his actions that day." LINK

"But Thurlow's military records, portions of which were released yesterday to The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, contain several references to 'enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire' directed at 'all units' of the five-boat flotilla. Thurlow won his own Bronze Star that day, and the citation praises him for providing assistance to a damaged Swift boat 'despite enemy bullets flying about him.'"

One of the repetitious claims of "Unit for Command" is that Kerry himself manufactured the gunfire when recording the moment for posterity and for his own medals. Kerry had nothing to do with Thurlow's citation, so even if the gunfire is still a fiction, as Thurlow continues to insist, the allegation that Kerry made up the event has acquired a flimsiness almost unworthy of further discussion.

We still haven't heard why Adrian Lonsdale decided to laud Kerry in 1996 and attack him in 2004.

And why Capt. George Elliott has changed his tune at least five times — singing Kerry's praises Kerry in Vietnam, then apparently turning against him after; praising him in 1996; criticizing him in the Swift Boat add in 2004; then changing his mind to Michael Kranish; then signing an affidavit repudiating his repudiation.

More than the generic "who's funding them" — which, by its very nature leaves the Democratic 527/Kerry campaign nexus off the hook, we have these questions:

Who brought these folks together? Who put them in touch with their publisher? Who else attends these "strategy sessions" in Arlington we hear about? And why the New York Post never even looked at the dope sheet for the "poll" they cited yesterday about independents and the swift boat ad?

Read an excerpt, courtesy of the adoring Washington Times : LINK

Writes the Wall Street Journal 's editorial board: "We wish this Presidential election had nothing at all to do with Vietnam. There were good people who served and good people who didn't, good people who supported the war and good people who protested it. What happened really shouldn't be an issue more than 30 years later unless you lie about it. So why do the Democrats keep bringing Vietnam up, and to their own detriment?"

The New York Times ed board weighs in too. LINK

McGreevey: what's next:

Ending a week full of speculation, early last evening Sen. Jon Corzine released a statement after a phone conversation with Gov. James McGreevey earlier in the day:

"Today I spoke to Governor McGreevey to express my concerns about this difficult time for his family, the Governor himself, and most importantly, the people of New Jersey. The Governor made clear in our conversation his absolute intent to serve until November 15, 2004. I accept that decision as final," Corzine said.

Shortly thereafter, McGreevey released his own short statement: "I appreciate Senator Corzine's decision and his consideration for my position and for the well-being of my family."

Coverage of the Corzine decision:

New York Times : "Corzine Says He Won't Push McGreevey Out of Office" LINK

Newark Star Ledger: "Corzine will not force governor out" LINK

Trenton Times: "Cozine Bows Out" LINK

Philadelphia Inquirer: "Corzine rebuffed on election" LINK

We're giving Sen. Lesniak the "most quotable" award thus far in this Garden State scandal. LINK

"'The governor told me that the party bosses can cut out his heart and drag his body through the streets of Trenton and he's still not going to leave early,' said Democratic state Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth)."

Corzine did tell McGreevey during their phone conversation that he plans to run for governor seat in 2005, according to several published reports.

By all appearances, this looks to now be settled, and Gov. McGreevey will be staying in office until Nov. 15, when State Senate President Richard Codey would become interim governor. But this is New Jersey politics, so expect the unexpected. The Star Ledger looks at the possibilities. LINK

What does Jim McGreevey do next? The Philadelphia Inquirer's Kaitlin Gurney looks at what opportunities may be available in the private sector. LINK

Media outlets are still abuzz to get the "big interview" with Gov. McGreevey. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Mitch Lipka reports that Katie Couric went so far as to call the Governor's office from Athens, Greece, to try to persuade him to do a sit-down. LINK

But so far, the McGreevey has made no agreements to do any television interviews.

The Daily News has more today on the day McGreevey's wife, Dina Matos, found out about her husband's affair and sexual identity. LINK

Golan Cipel, the Governor's accuser, granted an extensive interview to the Isreali paper the Haaretz Daily, where he went into further detail about his relationship with the Governor and contradicted earlier reports that he resigned from McGreevey's staff in August 2002, saying instead that he was fired. Cipel also expressed his displeasure at being made out to be a "ridiculous character" by Mr. McGreevey and his staff. LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at Cipel's rise from obscurity to infamy. LINK

A male New Jersey professor has come out to the media claiming to also have had a relationship with Cipel. The professor also claims that Cipel is still in love with McGreevey. Cipel's attorney denied the two had a relationship. LINK

"I Was Golan's Gay Lover" blares the front page of the New York Post , but don't get too excited for a McGreevey exclusive interview. LINK

In other New Jersey scandal news, Charles Kushner, the former McGreevey fundraiser and developer, pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges that will send him to prison for as much as two years, after eleventh-hour negotiations with prosecutors nearly collapsed. "Kushner, 50, admitted cheating on his taxes and hiding illegal campaign donations by making them in the names of his business partners. He also acknowledged that he retaliated against a witness in the tax probe — identified by sources as his estranged sister — by hiring a prostitute to seduce her husband and sending a tape of the encounter to his wife," reports the Star Ledger's John Martin. LINK

The New York Times LINK and the Trenton Times LINK have more details.

The Republican National Convention:

The New York Times reports the RNC will tap Democratic Sen. Zell Miller to nominate President Bush at the convention in New York. LINK

So tape PAs, get that Clinton nomination speech ready for a split-screen.

Note that our colleagues at WABC broke an exclusive story last night on how there are 56 convention protesters under surveillance by the NYPD. "While international terrorism remains a concern, this operation's focus is primarily on anarchists, and how they plan to disrupt the convention. This week the NYPD began instructing officers on intelligence on this threat," reported Marcus Solis. LINK

The New York Times ' Diane Cardwell wraps the day in court for lawyers of United for Peace and Justice, who "filed a complaint in State Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking to force the city to grant a permit for 250,000 people to rally in Central Park on Aug. 29, saying its refusal to do so violates the state Constitution." LINK

The Washington Post 's ed board — whose city knows a thing or two about protests — argues in favor of letting the caged (in Boston) birds sing — and close to the convention. LINK

". . . something precious is threatened when demonstrators — even rowdy, obnoxious and possibly misguided demonstrators — are kept at such distance from the objects of their protest. What's at risk is democracy, and it deserves a bit more respect. . . . City police should not be deployed in a fashion that ensures that the infomercials do not suffer from any technical glitches, unruly moments or dissonant voices."

USA Today 's Jim Drinkard reports that Al-Jazeera "will have a sign hanging outside its skybox and above the delegates." LINK

In a Q & A interview in the New York Times magazine, film maker Vincent Gallo LINK tells Deborah Solomon he wants to speak at the RNC. "I would like to, they haven't invited me yet."

With a story so nice, it was reported on thrice James Gordon Meek, Michelle McPhee and Maggie Haperman of the New York Daily News report the FBI fears some protesters are "plotting bloody confrontations" during the Republican National Convention.

"'We have reporting that people who are going to a site to protest [in New York] may be planning to do more than protest,' said FBI counter terrorism chief Gary Bald." Similar threat scenarios surfaced before the DNC. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

The Washington Post 's David Broder generally endorses the ever-spreading phenomenon of early voting, which makes "Election Day into election weeks," and Notes the generally high level of participation among early and absentee voters, encouraged by efforts like the one by the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) — though it doesn't eliminate all sides' efforts to manipulate results. LINK

A coalition of civil rights groups that plans to send thousands of lawyers to problem precincts across the county on election day in November has scheduled a full rehearsal of their activities for the Aug. 31 primary in Florida.

The Election Protection Coalition, spearheaded by the Washington-based Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law, People for the American Way Foundation and Unity 04, will have hundreds of volunteers in place across the state in two weeks. It's a preview of their massive program planned for election day in November, which will feature a nationwide toll free hotline and nearly 30,000 lawyers spread across the country ready to help voters if problems arise.

A separate group, the Voter Protection Coalition Round Table, will have a dry run of its own, monitoring Duval County, Jacksonville, Orlando, Gadsen County, Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Palm Beach County for irregularities. It's backed principally by AFSCME and includes partners like the AFL-CIO and People for the American Way. They'll set up five call centers across the state with lawyers at the ready.

It's easy to see a few glitches — misprinted ballots, control mechanisms for electronic machines that don't work, provisional ballots that aren't properly signed — and turn it into a crisis. So far (and tempered by the knowledge that it's in their interest to say so), most election experts and administrators we talk to believe that the vote will proceed as planned on Aug. 31, that electronic machines will work nearly flawlessly, that voters will have access to polls and provisional ballots if they get confused and that the vote will be canvassed without controversy.

Among the problems they'll watch:

--The three populous Southeastern counties of Broward, Dade and Palm Beach, all using touch screen technology; and the potential (like in 2002 and in municipal elections) for some of the machines to fail to start on time or to simply fail. In May, the info-tech director of Miami-Dade County reported significant problems with his county's touch screen voting machine software, which the county now insists has been rectified. Miami-Dade has set up a county task force to monitor elections, prevent fraud and voter intimidation, and has a complaint hotline in place as well.

--Provisional ballots, which allow valid voters who show up without identification at the right precinct to cast valid votes, have to be counted separately and are filled out by hand, which could create political controversy in close races as the ballots are hand-counted in front of partisan witnesses. Yesterday, a coalition of unions sued the state to force officials to accept votes cast by valid voters who show up at the wrong precinct in the right county.

--New absentee voting/early voting rules, and voters who don't properly fill out paper ballots. Most early ballot casting in most counties will be conducted on electronic voting machines of some type, which will have to store the data until Aug. 31, when counting can begin. Miami-Dade County is leaving nothing to chance — they're paying for armed guards to protect each of their 13 early voting locations around the clock until the day of the primary.

--People trouble: in Miami-Dade, there are more than 7,000 poll workers and nearly 1,500 county staff who have direct roles in administering the election. Humans are human, and mistakes will be made. And there might not be enough poll workers to go around. The average national age of poll workers, a recent survey found, was 72.

--The felons. A court ordered the state to publicize its list of 48,000 felons it planned to purge from voter rolls. When it did, in late June, numerous errors were discovered, including the fact that the list had virtually no Hispanics on it. The state decided to let all 67 counties do the purging if they wished — and most elected not to. Just recently, the state abandoned the felon purge notion altogether until an accurate statewide voter database is completed.

--In Orlando, what strikes many observers as a legitimate investigation into credible allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the mayor's race has left many Democratic and African American activists alleging that state investigators were trying to intimidate black voters.

Not to mention the chaos many fear if a statewide race is close enough to trigger a manual recount and campaign officials start to scrutinize the touch screen machines. Most touch screen machines don't have a paper trail, so electronic votes cannot be separately and manually audited. If the machine is broken or tampered with (and there are different opinions as to whether these machines break down or can be easily tampered with), the number that appears on the computer screen is, for all intents and purposes, the legal tally from that machine.

Fifteen Florida counties representing 50 percent of its voters, including West Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade will use touch screen machines.

The Election Protection Coalition includes:

-- a nationwide toll free voter Hotline, (1-866-OUR VOTE) where access to a lawyer is a mere phone call away. 200 will staff the center on election day.

-- a big, prospective, pre-election day voter education program targeted at specific populations in specific states

-- massive election day leafleting, poll transportation assistance and information about provisional ballots

-- a big PR campaign to alert the media to their existence..

It's allied with the American Bar Association, the AFL-CIO, Tom Joyner's radio program, and other organizations.

Not to mention the dozens of Republican and Democratic Party lawyers who will also be on the ground.

For November. the Republicans have offered to partner with the Democratic Party and agree to send lawyers together to problem precincts, but Democrats have rebuffed the offer, calling it political.

Undeniably, the specter of another 2000 — and repeated claims that as many as a million African Americans were disenfranchised in 2000 — stokes the Democratic base. Republican lawyers have held dozens of training sessions with state and local campaign officials to educate them on the politics and policy of ballot integrity — they warn them that Democrats may try to commit fraud and also warn them against doing anything that would smack the media or Democrats as voter intimidation.

The politics of Hurricane Charley:

The Miami Herald's Lesley Clark reports that "Democrats late Wednesday suggested they had found political cover for a [Kerry] visit: an offer from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to tour the affected areas. A visit might come as early as Friday." LINK

The Orlando Sentinel's John Kennedy reports, "Hurricane Charley is continuing to churn up the state's fiercely contested U.S. Senate race, with Republican front-runner Bill McCollum scrambling Wednesday to maintain what is seen as one of his strongest political bases in storm-ravaged Southwest Florida." LINK

The politics of Iraq:

The Washington Post 's Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karl Vick reports that Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr has said he's open to talking about disbanding his militia and leaving the shrine in Najaf, but wants to talk details with the Iraqi interim government. Developments are being approached carefully, they Note. LINK

Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) took a parting shot at the Bush Administration as he wraps up is House career after 13 terms, "saying he believes that the U.S. military assault on Iraq was unjustified and that the situation has deteriorated into 'a dangerous, costly mess,'" the AP reports. LINK

The economy:

Sure to be mentioned on the round of morning conference calls: "A relentless rise in the cost of employee health insurance has become a significant factor in the employment slump, as the labor market adds only a trickle of new jobs each month despite nearly three years of uninterrupted economic growth," the New York Times ' Porter reports. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's editorial board likes flex-time proposals.

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

The Des Moines Register 's David Yepsen has a bunch of tidbits, none so interesting as this: "Polk County Auditor Mike Mauro predicts 50,000 people will vote by absentee ballot this year in Iowa's largest county. That's a huge number — about a third of the total vote. He already has 17,000 absentee-ballot requests, mostly from Democrats. Ballots will be mailed Sept. 23 and voters can start casting them then." LINK

The Detroit Free Press leads with the state's July jobs report. LINK

"The Michigan economy stumbled in July, losing another 7,000 jobs, pushing one of the nation's worst unemployment rates even higher, and ensuring that workplace worries will be a major issue in this fall's presidential election."

"The state's factories again bore the brunt of the cutbacks, eliminating 16,000 more positions and reducing the number of manufacturing jobs below 700,000 for the first time since Michigan began keeping records."

The Detroit News also leads its paper with July's 6.8% unemployment rate. LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

"Out-of-state gay couples are banned from marrying in Massachusetts pending a final ruling on the 1913 law that Governor Mitt Romney is using to block same-sex marriages, a Superior Court judge ruled yesterday," leads the Boston Globe 's Scott Greenberger. LINK

Prison abuse scandal:

"A long-awaited report on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal will implicate about two dozen military intelligence soldiers and civilian contractors in the intimidation and sexual humiliation of Iraq war prisoners, but will not suggest wrongdoing by military brass outside the prison, senior Defense officials said Wednesday," reports the Los Angeles Times' John Hendren. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

State Democrats yesterday gathered at the Illinois State Fair, putting previous disagreements behind them, and rallied behind their knight in shining armor Barack Obama, reports the Chicago Tribune's Long and Parsons. There is in-fighting among the Googling monkeys this morning on which Obama sign is better: "Oh Mama, it's Obama" or "You Barack My World."LINK

The Raleigh News & Observer 's Rob Christensen reports that Erskine Bowles knows that the NRSC is coming after him soon, and gets Rick Reed to confirm that his people are involved. LINK

On that same topic, the Charlotte Observer's Mark Johnson writes, "The commercials are scheduled to run from Sept. 7 up to election day, Nov. 2. The Republicans' purchase of advertising time that far in advance suggests they are concerned about North Carolina turning into a battleground state and the national and state campaigns buying up the advertising time, said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, which monitors advertising purchases." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the House:

Lauren W. Whittington of Roll Call reports a recount is expected in North Carolina's 10th district primary. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the gubernatorial races:

The Kansas City Star looks at the latest campaign moves by gubernatorial candidates in Missouri. "Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt on Wednesday called for reform of Missouri's workers' compensation system, while his opponent, Democrat Claire McCaskill, insisted the state do better at protecting children." LINK

Things are heating up in the Vermont gubernatorial race as well as each candidate tries to paint the other as a radical. The Boston Globe 's Sarah Schweitzer reports. LINK

Nader-Camejo '04:

The Nader Factor plans to begin running 60-second television and print ads today in New Mexico and Wisconsin. The comprehensive ad details instances where the GOP is said to have shown support for the Nader campaign, rolling out a clever new tag line, "Something strange is happening in American politics."

The buy is relatively small, but will surely see loads of free media. LINK

The New York Times ' Kit Seelye reports "Ralph Nader's efforts to get his name on presidential ballots in important swing states are becoming mired in legal challenges and charges of fraud by Democrats who have mounted an extensive campaign to keep him from becoming a factor in this year's election." LINK

Nader supporters took triple precautionary measures to put their candidate on the ballot in Ohio submitting 14,473 to Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, when only 5,000 were necessary (a smart move for a third party candidate seeking ballot access in the in the Mother of All Battlegrounds). Cox News Service notes "U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Cleveland, urged no votes for Nader, even though they had fought for many of the same issues over the years." Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik will likely make the ballot as well. LINK

Glenn Adams of the AP reports Democrats in Maine are preliminarily looking for flaws in Nader's petitions. LINK

The Seattle Times Notes Ralph Nader may be denied participation in the alternative presidential debates he has praised and championed. "Given the political climate this year and the hostility toward him, it's not clear that he will meet our criteria," said George Farah, a board member of the Citizens' Debate Commission. LINK

"Peace and Justice" will be the name of the party on which Ralph Nader will run in New York should he (as is expected) get on the ballot. LINK

The secretary of state in Missouri has ruled Ralph Nader will not be on the ballot, reports the AP. LINK

Brad Cain of the AP details the controversy that brought upon a state — Oregon — that is rarely associated with dirty tricks. Both the Nader campaign and self-appointed Nader watch groups have accused the other side of wrongdoing. LINK

Sean Reilly of the Mobile Register reports on the trials and tribulations of third parties aiming to make the ballots. LINK


USA Today 's Jim Drinkard introduces us to John Sperling, who is very rich, running newspaper ads with a twist on the red states versus blue states school of politics, convinced that Democrats should work their base, and had his cat cloned when he couldn't get his dog cloned. LINK

"Why do Republicans and Democrats differ so emphatically?" "Do liberals 'think' with their limbic systems more than conservatives do?" Steven Johnson tackles these ideas and more as he explores the possibility of the "Political Brain" in Sunday's New York Times ' Magazine.

Johnson references an article that appeared in the New York Times ' somewhat recently which profiled a team of U.C.L.A researchers who analyzed the "neural activity" of Democrats and Republicans while viewing campaign ads. Johnson notes its "pretty to think that we decide our political affiliations by methodically studying each party's positions on the issues" but a recent study by Arizona State shows that the voter naturally formed party affiliations prior to determining their political values. All of these theories are just that. The connection between the "brain and the polis" is still largely unknown, but "who is to say those effects don't travel all the way to the voting booth?"

Draw your own conclusion Sunday!

This is only going to get better! Mayor Daley vs. the Chicago Tribune (and its parent company). LINK

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—8:30 am: The Labor Department releases the weekly jobless claims report —9:00 am: Sen. John Kerry addresses the International Association of Fire Fighters 47th Biennial Convention at the John B. Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA —9:30 am: The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the 9/11 Commission's recommendations with Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, and others, Washington, DC —9:30 am: The National Press Professional Affairs Committee, the Gallup Organization, and the National Constitution Center host a program entitled, "Election Polling 2004: How to Interpret and Report on Polls in a Close Election" at the National Press Club, Washington, DC —10:00 am: The FEC meets to consider an opinion from its general counsel that would the commission to regulate any organization whose major purpose is political beginning the next election cycle, Washington, DC —10:00 am: The House International Relations Committee holds a hearing on "Diplomacy in the Age of Terrorism: What is the State Department's Strategy?" Washington, DC —10:00 am: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice speaks on "Waging the War of Ideas in the Global War on Terror" sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace, Washington, DC —10:30 am: RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie holds a conference call to announce the keynote speaker and daily themes for the 2004 Republican National Convention —12:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a front porch visit, Derry, NH —4:00 pm: The Cato Institute hosts a Policy Forum on "Affirmative Action After Michigan," Washington, DC —10:00 pm: Mario Rodriguez of BC'04, Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker of KE'04, and Matt Gonzalez on behalf of the Nader-Camejo campaign participate in a debate the at the Temecula City Counsel Chambers, Riverside County, CA