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18 days until the Republican convention 82 days until election day

NEWS SUMMARY Yesterday, in full voice, we told you that the presidential race was John Kerry's to lose.

Some readers thought our analysis too dire for Mr. Bush, but we were clear in saying that the president can still quite easily retain the White House, through some combination of Bush winning it and — Note well — Kerry losing it.

Yesterday's aggressive Bush-Cheney playing of the national security, character, and judgment cards are obviously part of any Bush comeback.

Per ABC News' Karen Travers, Vice President Cheney will say this today, once again playing all three legitimate cards (And keying off of the silliest thing John Kerry has said about national security since his "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" classic):

"Senator Kerry has also said that if he were in charge he would fight a 'more sensitive' war on terror. America has been in too many wars for any of our wishes, but not a one of them was won by being sensitive. President Lincoln and General Grant didn't wage sensitive wars. Nor did President Roosevelt or Generals Eisenhower MacArthur. A 'sensitive war' will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans and who seek chemical, nuclear and biological weapons to kill hundreds or thousands more. The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."

So, beyond opening the door politely to swarming Bush-Cheney-Gillespie assaults on his national security credibility through "sensitive" and other remarks, what are the other potential and real elements of Kerry "helping" the president to keep his job? And what are the things that just might HAPPEN and leave Kerry under pressure to react?

Ask almost any Democratic sharpie — inside or outside the campaign — and you will get plenty of answers.

A. John Kerry's relative (un)likeability has yet to become as big of a factor in this race as it undoubtedly will in the fall. Hands down, Bush will always win the "have a soda with" question.

B. Says a top Democratic strategist about the Kerry-Edwards campaign: "No one knows what their message is. 'Complex and layered' isn't necessarily enough."

C. Kerry's position on terrorism leaves him somewhat vulnerable to the charge that he simply does not "get" the overwhelming consensus in favor of tough — and sometimes pre-emptive — action against terrorist entities — a proposition that both parties believe most Americans support. (This is entirely separate from the question of whether the Iraqi invasion was warranted, wise, or well-handled.).

D. John Kerry has not laid out a plausible position on how he'd convince foreign countries to send troops to Iraq, how he'd bring US troops home earlier, etc.

E. Let's face it: there is something squirrelly and unsettling and not quite right about the way Michael Meehan answers the media's Vietnam-era questions — something that makes nearly every member of the Gang of 500 think there is still something there.

F. Too afraid, too disorganized, too protective to pull the trigger on accepting one of the many, many offers from TOP Democratic strategists and spokespeople to join up and help in the last 2 months.

G. It is not implausible that Kerry will get hammered in the debates.

H. It is not implausible that the possible array of "unexpected events" — capturing Bin Laden, another terrorist attack, etc — will benefit Bush.

I. Voters for the most part take John Kerry's view of the economy, seniors support him in droves, and yet he barely leads — evidence that Kerry hasn't (you guessed it!!) closed the deal.

J. If there's a gay marriage ban on the Ohio ballot … .

K. The Democratic message machine is OBSESSED with getting someone to write about certain subjects, like Halliburton, and spends way too much time trying to plant stories about it.

L. The Note is OBSESSED with field machines and knows that the Kerry campaign and the DNC are more than capable of putting together a stellar one. But the Republicans already have one. It's massive, intense, targeted, and sophisticated. The Republicans have the NRA and Redeem the Vote. LINK

And Coddy Johnson, which is sure to help 'em with young women voters.

Yesterday, we also asked for examples of 2000 Gore voters who will vote for the president this year. (Yes, we knew about Ed Koch, the mayor of St. Paul, and some others, but we wanted to get a flavor from non-celebrity voters.)

Thanks to an assist from National Review Online's Jim Geraghty (he of the excellent Kerry spot column LINK), we received more than a hundred responses.

We don't know for sure that these folks voted for Gore, but we'll take them at their word. Many took the time to write careful, measured essays, and we sincerely appreciate it. We read every single response.

One reason for the decision to choose Bush stood out: the GWOT and Bush's decisiveness. Looks like those polls showing that undecided voters still find Kerry indecisive are on to something.

Among those responding was the journalist Ronald Kessler, whose new book about Bush's character essentially chronicles his journey from Gore voter to Bush voter. LINK

A sampling of responses:

M. Connor, Ohio: "I am a lifelong Democrat from Ohio, who is proudly voting for President Bush. I am ashamed to say I voted for Al Gore in 2000. President Bush is a man of incredible strength and moral clarity. He is rock solid and a genuine family man who I am proud to support. John Kerry scares the heck out of a lot of us in Ohio. He is so unsteady and I don't trust him with the safety of my children."

L. Helton of Miami, Florida: "I was NEVER into politics before like I have become in this election. I have become a news junkie, and a more educated voter ever since 9/11. I never cared for Bush before, but ever since 9/11 his decisions and resolve to stand up and protect our country has really impressed me."

B. Sigalow, Maitland, Florida: "My main reason for doing so is my belief that Mr. Bush and the current administration are more capable of addressing the terrorist threat facing this nation and the Western world."

J. Faust, Des Moines, Iowa: "Have people forgotten 9/11? Have they forgotten we are the hunted, and that the United Nations let us down? Should I become an independent as I vote for the man, not for hatred?"

A.E. Diggins, Nevada: "I'm female, 40, work in academia, and the rest of my background reads like a liberal poster. But this election I'm switching because, for the

first time, I'm a single issue voter — the war. Despite some misteps by the Bush administration, I largely agree with the way they are proceeding in this war. I have 3 sons, the oldest will be 18 in 4 years. Selfishly, I want this war to get fought and won over the next few years before my sons have to do the fighting.

P. Albinus, New York, New York: "Hi. I voted for Al Gore in 2000 and I plan to vote for Bush in November. Why? The war on terror. Bush may be too conservative for my tastes but he gets the war and the fact that we have an enemy that wishes us ill. Kerry, I'm not so sure."

S. Mahar, New York, New York: "The main reason I'm voting for Bush in November is the war against the fascist strain of Islam that would destroy us if it had the opportunity."

A psychology professor from Colorado: "I've never voted for a Republican in my life before now (2 Clintons, 1 Gore, and PA Gov. Ed Rendell). But frankly, I think that nobody can truly say what Kerry believes, and that's disturbing to me. His DNC speech sealed my vote against him, with the aforementioned 'retaliation' and the fact that he's running on 30 year old accomplishments and entirely skipped his long Senate career."

Note Note: very few of our respondents mentioned same-sex marriage.

Today, Vice President Cheney leads and begins the attack this morning when he criticizes Kerry's stated desire to wage a "more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror" — highlighting, of course, the last phrase — at a campaign rally in Dayton at 10:00 am ET.

Senator Kerry's first chance to respond will come at 2:00 pm ET, when he speaks at California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA.

Kerry is beginning a two-week focus not on sensitivity or the war on terror but the economy — dubbed "A Stronger America Begins at Home: The Path to Prosperity."

Kerry spokesperson Allison Dobson tells ABC News' Teddy Davis that there might be some new nuggets on child care today but that for the most part Kerry's speech will collect the various strands of his corporate and personal tax policies — proposals you've heard before — into one place.

Kerry then flies to Central Point, OR for an 8:00 pm ET rally before spending the night in Eugene.

What Kerry won't be (willingly) talking about: the California Supreme Court is set to rule today on whether San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom exceeded his authority by allowing gay couples to marry earlier this year.

President Bush meanwhile visits Las Vegas, where Kerry was yesterday, to speak to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners at 2:00 pm ET. He then flies to Santa Monica, where Kerry was last night, for an RNC fundraiser at the Santa Monica Airport with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (who may start campaign out-of-state for Bush, reports the LA Times' Peter Nicholas. ">LINK

President and Mrs. Bush appear (taped) on CNN's "Larry King Live" at 9:00 pm.

And don't forget this nugget of the day: Ralph Nader returns to Florida for the first time since the 2000 election. He holds a 1:00 pm ET press conference and 6:30 pm ET rally in Tampa and has a closed meeting with the St. Petersburg Times' editorial board.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect: Cheney on the offense: As we Noted above, ABC News' Karen Travers reports that in his speech here today, Vice President Cheney will criticize a statement from Senator John Kerry last week that he would fight a "more sensitive war on terror."

Cheney is responding to a quote from Senator Kerry from the UNITY conference last week in Washington, when he said "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history."

Phil Singer, a Kerry campaign spokesman, responds: "What Dick Cheney doesn't understand is that arrogance isn't a virtue when our country is in danger. Alienating allies makes it harder to hunt terrorists and bring them to justice. Kerry was saying we shouldn't be arrogant because we are stronger when other countries are working with us to win the war on terror. The Bush Cheney Administration's arrogance led to America bearing nearly 90% of the financial and military burden in Iraq, and to an America isolated in the world."

Travers Notes that this quote from Senator Kerry also came up at the Cheney's town hall meeting in Joplin, Missouri.

A man in the audience said he had a question "for Lynne Cheney to answer" and asked "Senator Kerry has made the statement that he would like to fight a more sensitive war on terror. What in the world would he be thinking about there? Your thoughts?"

Mrs. Cheney responded: "I just kind of shook my head when I heard that — with all due respect to the senator, it just sounded so foolish. I can't imagine that Al Qaeda is going to be impressed by sensitivity."

A campaign official told Travers that the question was not planted and the excerpt in today's speech is not in response to the question.

In the Dayton speech to an audience that will include veterans and first responders, Cheney will also address the war on terror and highlight the distinctions between President Bush and his strategy to fight the war on terror and Senator Kerry's lack of a strategy to fight the war on terror, a campaign official said.

At that town hall meeting today in Joplin, Missouri, Cheney used some of the harshest language and strongest criticism against Senator Kerry that he has in this campaign.

Ms. Travers further reports:

While Vice President Cheney has never shied away from questioning Senator Kerry's votes on Iraq, intelligence and taxes, yesterday he used the Democratic nominee's record to question his judgment and qualifications for the presidency.

Vice President Cheney classified Senator Kerry's record as full of "hesitancy and uncertainty" and that it called into question his ability to serve as commander-in-chief — "when nearly every time an issue came up that might have some bearing on that capability he went the wrong way."

Cheney Noted that the president of the United States "has to make those tough calls, those life and death decisions for the rest of us" and "we don't want to turn that responsibility over to somebody who doesn't have deeply held conviction about right and wrong."

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect: The Washington Post 's Dan Balz Notes President Bush's focus on security in a month where he was going to lay out his second term agenda. LINK

Balz: "[H]is message remains elemental: He is the candidate who will keep the country safe."

Bob Novak urges Republicans to rally around President Bush's tax cuts as an engine that's reviving the economy, and not to be so easily thrown by middling economic numbers that economists he's talked to say reflect "less the real state of the economy than faults of methodology in the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics." Now is the time, Novak writes, for the president to hammer home his plans for taxes and Social Security in his acceptance speech in New York. LINK Rick Klein of the Boston Globe picks up on that theme as the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign released another ad focusing on security: "The ad underscores Bush's continued use of national security as a campaign issue, even as polls show voters have gained trust in Kerry on the issue of protecting the nation from terrorism. "LINK

(Note Note: fabulous inaugural pool report, Herr Klein!!!)

The Washington Post 's Nell Henderson Notes "The Bush campaign found good economic news yesterday in an unusual source — the Federal Reserve's avowed determination to keep raising interest rates." LINK As First Lady Laura Bush starts to ramp up her campaign activity, the New York Times ' Randy Kennedy looks at her style on the stump, Noting that "she has skillfully turned her lack of political polish to her advantage." LINK Kennedy writes that the First Lady "is becoming an increasingly visible and effective part of White House strategy, largely because she is seen as someone above the rough-and-tumble of the political fray."

The New York Times ' very, very busy Jennifer Steinhauer reports that in his convention speech, Rudy Giuliani, who "has emerged as a potent political symbol who evokes the nation's initial response to the 9/11 attack," will speak "almost exclusively" about that day. LINK Steinhauer also looks at the former mayor's role in the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign, Noting that he is "racing around the country campaigning and directly leveraging the events of Sept. 11 in ways that President Bush and many of his closest allies have not dared." And Giuliani tells the New York Daily News's Saltonstall that while he is not ruling out a Cabinet position in a second Bush term, that is not why he is so active on the campaign trail for the president. LINK "'He's the best character witness Bush could have on the war on terrorism,' one senior Bush campaign strategist said yesterday."

Keep your eye out for Gov. Schwarzenegger on the campaign trail for BC04, the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas reports. LINK

Nicholas reports that Schwarzenegger's chief of staff "has been talking with Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, and Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman about a time and place where Schwarzenegger would campaign on the president's behalf" and the Governor himself said ""If there's a place, one place where they want to pop me in, this makes sense for me."

"Schwarzenegger's value as a campaigner is twofold: His celebrity ensures large crowds and his moderate credentials could work to broaden Bush's appeal."

Pensacola is still aglow over yesterday's presidential visit. LINK Some Kerry push-back on yesterday's new Bush ad in the Washington Times . LINK The New York Post 's Vince Morris plays the latest BC04 ad straight down the middle, though intimates that this ad is not causing the firestorm surrounding the first 9/11 themed ad with images from Ground Zero. LINK Morris also gets space for what he describes as the Bush-McCain "double-team[ing]" on Kerry's remarks regarding decreasing troop strength in Iraq by the end of his first six months in office. LINK The Republican National Convention: From a hot-off-the-presses release from the two hardest-working gents in GOP politics:

"Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Bill Harris, CEO of the 2004 Republican National Convention, today announced a third group of program speakers to address the nation from Madison Square Garden at the 2004 Republican National Convention. The seven individuals come from across the nation and possess diverse backgrounds including politics, media and law enforcement."

"The newly announced speakers include Governor Mitt Romney, Lt. Gov. and 2004 Massachusetts delegate Kerry Healey, Nevada Attorney General and 2004 delegate Brian Sandoval, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, the Honorable Elaine Chao, Rep. Paul Ryan and Michael Reagan."

As we first told you, the Democrats have a full-time staff in New York City as we speak and they're already lobbing oppo bullets at Republicans. Today, expect to hear about the degree to which delegate rosters are kept secret.

More: the New York Daily News reports that a "Misleading in Manhattan" campaign led by Democrats and their "truth squads" will try to counter the GOP message coming out of the RNC. LINK Some say that businesses near Madison Square Garden should get their own special sales-tax-free week as compensation for the big financial hits they're going to take during the RNC. LINK If he wins his primary on day 2 of the convention, Mel Martinez gets to speak at the Republican convention, as Al Kamen reported yesterday and the Florida press picks up today. LINK Michael Bloomberg almost sounds Giuliani-esque in his response to police and firefighter unions threatening job actions during the convention. LINK "Base" is no normal four-letter word this time of the year. The AP's Will Lester looks at some of the musical acts that will perform at the convention in New York — Michael C. Smith, Christian music pop star, and the Gatlin Brothers, to name a couple. LINK

Winnie Hu of the New York Times writes that Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday said he's not backing down from his decision not to allow major protests in Central Park during the Republican Convention. LINK The protesters had no right to go back on their agreement to demonstrate along the West Side Highway, the New York Times ' ed board writes. LINK But, in an implicit attack on Ed Skyler, Gail Collins says that the city should provide water!!!

The politics of Porter Goss: The Washington Post 's Walter Pincus reports "The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), said confirmation hearings on the nomination of Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) as CIA director will be held the first week in September, but Roberts joined a key House panel chairman yesterday in questioning whether Congress will move to overhaul U.S. intelligence agencies before the November election." LINK The New York Times ' Kit Seelye writes that while Democrats are raising a ruckus, it's highly unlikely that they'll throw themselves in front of it. LINK

She outlines the president's master stroke: "Privately, some Democrats said the nomination put them in a difficult political position. The C.I.A. has already gone two months without a replacement for George J. Tenet as director. The Democrats said that if they opposed the Goss nomination they expected that the White House would cast them as obstructionists who were delaying prosecution of the war on terror."

Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times previews what will no doubt be a Democratic line of attack during confirmation hearings. LINK

"In a section of its final report that is critical of Congress, the Sept. 11 commission singled out Goss' committee, saying it held "perhaps two" hearings on the issue from January 1998 up until the attacks."

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04: The AP's Dalrymple give us a quick glance at what's in store as far as campaign message goes — it's all economics and taxes the next two weeks. She also tells us a little bit about Oregon, today's battleground-of-choice.LINK

The Boston Globe 's Charlie Savage looks at how the Kerry-Edwards campaign seeks and has been trying to help Senator Edwards' liability with doctors following a career of being, well, the anti-doctor. "Behind the campaign's effort to recast Edwards lies a fear that doctors' anger over his trial-lawyer image could deprive the Democratic ticket of support from a medical constituency that is very much in play in this election. Polling data from recent elections show that doctors, who traditionally vote Republican, are moving toward Democrats because of concerns over health-care issues, including a patient bill of rights."LINK

The Boston Globe 's Pat Healy wraps Senator Kerry's "politically charged house call on 200 Nevada senior citizens yesterday." LINK

The New York Times ' Jodi Wilgoren wraps Senator Kerry's bash-the-President-on-prescription-drugs-benefits campaign appearance in Nevada Wednesday. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman looks at Senator Kerry's almost apolitical — or at least increasingly non-partisan — stance on the trail while wooing battleground state voters.LINK

"Seizing on signs of dissatisfaction among senior citizens with the Medicare law signed last year by President Bush, John F. Kerry told a mostly gray-haired crowd in Nevada's second-largest city Wednesday that as president he would remove the law's restrictions on importing cheaper drugs from Canada," writes the Washington Post 's Jonathan Finer.LINK ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney v. Kerry-Edwards: Maura Reynolds and Mark Z. Barabak team up for their daily campaign wrap and Notice that they keep almost running into each other on the trail. LINK

"Regardless of who is shadowing whom, the overlapping appearances reflect the unusually taut nature of this presidential race and the relatively limited number of states that are truly in play with just 82 days left until the election."

The New York Times ' David Sanger turns in a spot-on must-read outline of Senator Kerry's efforts to explain his Iraq vote with nuance, and President Bush's goading that called him on the carpet to do so. And while Bush sometimes sounds defensive, Sanger Notes, Kerry has taken the bait. LINK "It is a problem that has dogged Mr. Kerry since he walked through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire, and suffered the barbs of Vermont's former governor, Howard Dean, who made Mr. Kerry's vote to authorize action an issue. Now Mr. Bush has taken up where Dr. Dean left off."

The Chicago Sun-Times' Debra Pickett writes up a study by two political science professors from Michigan State who claim that more people who are worried about terrorism are likely to support Senator Kerry than President Bush. They'll present their study to the American Political Science Association meeting in Chicago on Sept. 2. LINK Jeff Zeleny and Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune look at the dueling trips out West by the presidential candidates this week. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Kathleen Hennessey takes a look at the targeting of unreliable voters. LINK

"Typically referred to as nonvoters, unregistered and infrequent voters were often ignored by pollsters and strategists, who preferred to invest time and dollars reaching the voters who were most likely to show up at the polls on election day."

"With polls in key states deadlocked, campaign bank accounts flush and most likely voters leaning toward a candidate, the two major parties and like-minded groups say they are willing to look for new targets."

The Washington Post 's Thomas Edsall reports: "A group financed by a major Republican contributor has begun running radio ads in about a dozen cities, many in battleground states, attacking Senator John F. Kerry as "rich, white and wishy-washy" and mocking his wife for boasting of her African roots." LINK But the buy so far, Edsall reports, is only $70,000.

ABC News Vote 2004: The Big Four: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin: Quinnipiac Florida numbers out this morning: Kerry 47 Bush 41 Nader 4

Aug. 5-10 — 1,094 registered voters — +/- 3% margin of error

Bush's favorables went down (as did his approval rating) since the June poll, Kerry's went up. On issues — Kerry outperforms Bush on the job he would do with the economy and health care. And as we've also seen elsewhere, Bush outperforms Kerry on handling terrorism (50-41) and statistically insignificantly edges out the Democrat on Iraq (48-45).

Q-poll June 29 numbers: Kerry 43 Bush 43 Nader 5

The Cincinnati Enquirer's lead story on its website opens like this: "About 60 Ohio steelworkers and their supporters protested outside the federal courthouse in Cincinnati Wednesday morning. Inside, a federal appeals court was considering a case that could decide whether 2,500 workers get shutdown pensions after their mills went bankrupt." LINK More from the Enquirer's Gregory Korte: "The confrontation brought the rust-belt economic issues facing northern Ohio to Cincinnati, if only for one day. And while the legal arguments turned on a narrow issue of when the pension plan was shut down, the protest outside took on broader issues of Ohio's economy in a presidential election year."

The Columbus Dispatch's Anna Michael reports, "A federally funded campaign urging Americans to buy their prescription drugs strictly from pharmacies in the United States has been extended to Ohio." LINK ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds: A mathematically-precise prose formula battleground papers seem to be following:

"(Insert candidate name) is coming to (insert name of battleground state) on (insert date), proving the importance of (re-insert name of battleground state) as a battleground in this year's presidential election."

Here's one good example about John Edwards coming to Minnesota. LINK Now readers at home, you try it too …

"It took about a week after the Democratic National Convention, but U.S. Senator John Kerry picked up the bounce he was looking for in Michigan," writes the Detroit Free Press citing a poll of 600 Michigan residents taken Aug. 4-10, showing that Kerry is leading Bush, 49 percent to 42 percent. Independent candidate Ralph Nader has 3 percent support. LINK The Detroit News wraps up Dick Cheney's fourth visit to Michigan this year, looks forward to John Edwards Great Lakes State visit on Friday, and declares Michigan a vice presidential battleground. LINK Note to John Kerry: one way NOT to court voters is to have their cars towed by Secret Service. LINK Kerry-Edwards Arizona communications director Sue Walitsky was turned away from attending the president Bush speech in Phoenix yesterday. LINK

Kerry State Director Doug Wilson had this to say in a statement: "I thought that a President was a president of all the people and that all had a right to listen regardless of political affiliation. I'm disappointed that doesn't seem to be the case."

Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards came to Portland, Maine yesterday to rally female voters and to criticize President Bush for "putting ideology ahead of science" on the issue of stem cell research. LINK "Kerry will headline a top-dollar fund-raiser in Seattle in two weeks, the start of what the campaign hopes will be a final push to raise $1.5 million more from Washington before Election Day," reports the Seattle Times' David Postman. LINK The Las Vegas Review-Journal's headline: "Kerry vows to fight Yucca plan." LINK ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate: The Chicago Sun-Times' Abdon Pallasch writes that former Illinois Gov. James Thompson has said he will not endorse Alan Keyes for the Senate, because some of Keyes' positions make him "uncomfortable as a voter." LINK "'I find it sad that the state central committee of the Republican Party could not find a Republican in Illinois to take this race on because we had a number willing to do so,' he said."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Graeme Zielinski reports that Wisconsin Right to Life will challenge a provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in court today because they want to run ads that mention Senator Feingold. LINK

"Feingold, who called the lawsuit politically motivated and without merit, said he couldn't be happier for the attention to his signature effort."

Lauren W. Whittington of Roll Call calls Georgia's open-seat Senate contest a "historic November match up." LINK ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting: Florida tested its voting machines yesterday, and there were no problems. Not even the Miami Herald could fine one. This is good news for the state. LINK

But … Teresa LePore's group in Palm Beach County mailed out absentee ballots with incorrect instructions on them. LINK The Wall Street Journal 's Avery Johnson examines the fine line Democrats are trying to negotiate over their position on granting voting rights to felons. On one hand, supporting the restoration could help among African-American voters; on the other hand, they're trying to minimize Republican attacks, Johnson writes. LINK

Results of an Aug. 3 primary in Missouri cannot be certified until a lawsuit filed against Sec. Of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt is resolved. Yes, the lawsuit was filed by the Democrats, and Blunt accuses his Democratic opponent Auditor Claire McCaskill of being the ring-leader. The lawsuit is over Blunt's interpretation of provisional ballot rules. The Kansas City Star's Hoover has the details. LINK

The St. Louis Post Dispatch's Jo Mannies chimes in, "At stake, in the short term, are hundreds of provisional ballots cast on Aug. 3 in Kansas City — many of which may be thrown out because of the polling-place rule, lawyers say. But the Democratic Party's broader interest is to eliminate that rule before the election in November, when Missouri could play a pivotal role in the presidential contest." LINK

SBVfT: The Washington Post 's ed board concludes the new ad and the new book by O'Neill "crosses the line in branding Mr. Kerry a coward and a liar." LINK Nader-Camejo '04: In New Hampshire yesterday, the Ralph Nader presidential campaign submitted more than enough signatures to put him on the ballot — if they pass muster. NH Dems will probably request copies of his signatures to begin the fine-tooth-comb review process (come les Democrats de Pennsylvania et Arizona). LINK

Meanwhile the New Hampshire Democratic Party filed an FEC complaint against the Nader campaign to investigate the gathering of petition signatures for Nader by a group of Republicans. The complaint names Norway Hill Associates, a New Hampshire-based consulting firm headed by Dave Carney, who served in the Bush 41 White House. Carney tells ABC News the pro-Nader effort "wasn't really a big deal" and explains he was inspired to help Nader's cause by "all of the unbelievable outrageous actions of Democrats keeping Nader off the ballot" in states like Illinois.

"Illinois? When was the last time Illinois was a battleground?"

The consulting firm recruited petition circulators who may have approached potential signers like this: "Excuse me Sir/miss etc. I was wondering if you could take a second to help President Bush?" according to scripts that have been circulating.

Carney told AP he hopes to get paid by a Missouri-based group called Choices for America, which requested the work. Colin Manning of Foster's Online reports that group is headed by Steve Wark who has been linked to pro-Nader effort in other states. LINK

Aaron Rizzio, Nader's New Hampshire coordinator says he didn't knowingly accept any signatures from Republicans who want to draw support from Kerry. Rizzio says the petitions were sometimes unloaded with a remark about "equal opportunity" for Nader.

Of due diligence for looking into the souls of Nader signers, Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese says, "We've done what we can, we've told Democrats and Republicans to stay out of our campaign." Zeese says they have had "no contact with Carney or the groups he has supposedly worked with."

Today Ralph Nader makes his first public appearances in the Florida since the 2000 election hold a mid-afternoon press conference, meeting with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board, and then delivering a speech at an evening rally. Nader's message will be the evils paperless e-voting, and voter disenfranchisement. LINK

Lynn Sweet to the Chicago Sun-Times hammers "Nader incorrectly does not grasp that his appeal to the far left of the political spectrum will take away more votes from Democrat John Kerry than from Bush. He still refuses to comprehend how his run four years ago siphoned off votes from Democrat Al Gore in states where the balloting was close, especially in Florida, New Hampshire and Oregon." LINK Does Chris Kofinis have a new title: "chief strategist?"

The Washington Post 's Brian Faler reports Ralph Nader "has become embroiled in an ugly exchange with the Anti- Defamation League, after he suggested that President Bush and Congress were 'puppets' of the Israeli government." LINK Nader isn't on the West Virginia ballot quite yet, but at least he's on the agenda of tonight's Kanawha County Commission meeting, which will likely discuss the petition drive to place Ralph Nader on this November's presidential ballot in West Virginia. LINK

"The treasurer of the national Reform Party, which is supporting Ralph Nader for president, has told federal election officials that the party has $18.18 in the bank and should be terminated," reports the AP. LINK

Ralph Nader backers are hard at work in Wisconsin. The candidate's state field coordinator, Bill Linville, tells the AP that this time around Nader officials don't plan to provide updates on their progress and that they will conduct their own review of names and addresses before turning them in. "We're going to leave ourselves as much time to check through the signatures as possible," Linville said. LINK The AP reports the Green Party of California denied Ralph Nader's request to hold a special nominating convention that would have given him another shot at appearing on California's ballot. The plot to bump candidate David Cobb from the Green line has failed. LINK

Nader's legal battle in Pennsylvania. LINK Ralph Nader will participate in convocation series at Drury University in Springfield Missouri on August 26. By then, the secretary of state's office may have determined whether his signatures are valid, placing him on the ballot. LINK

Will he celebrate with a surprise visit to Bass Pro outdoor shop? (Cheney seemed to enjoy it so.) LINK

Politics: In case you were wondering, our monkeys of the Googling variety need no "anti-sense expression vector" injected for efficiency. LINK

Publishers of the upcoming Jon Stewart/Daily Show staff book have upped the initial printing. And apparently the book has the potential to appeal to both New Yorker magazine readers as well as readers of Playboy. LINK Rona Marech of the San Francisco Chronicle talks to some gay newlywed couples anxiously awaiting the California Supreme Court's decision over whether San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom overstepped his bounds by allowing gay couples to marry. LINK

The New York Times ' Diana Jean Schemo reports that teachers' groups, led by the National Education Association, "introduced a campaign on Wednesday to mobilize opposition to the No Child Left Behind law, to demand more money for public schools and to raise the profile of education as an election issue" with house parties and meetings at churches, libraries and schools on Sept. 22. LINK "The day the earth stood still. On August 14, 2003 air conditioners, street lights and anything that needs power shut down when parts of the Northeast and Midwest power grid failed, stranding 50 million people in the worst blackout in U.S. history. Now a year later, nothing's changed.

We are just as vulnerable to a blackout. Our power supply is still unreliable and power companies unaccountable …

… so begins the radio ads US PIRG and Sierra Club and a coalition of 22 other national environmental organizations are running in in Ohio: (Akron, Canton and Toledo); and Michigan (Kalamazoo and Lansing), where power outages caused by the blackout in 2003 caused outages that lasted days.

The ads began airing yesterday and will run about 25 times a day in each market through Saturday. The goal is to urge the Bush Administration and Congressional leaders that the electricity grid is no more reliable than it was a year ago, counter Administration spin to advocating its own energy bill and urge support for the plan crafted by Rep. John Dingell and others to pass free standing electricity reliability legislation.

ABC News Vote 2004: Olympics and the battlegrounds:

Sports fans and devout, yet fatigued, Goggling monkeys alike need wait patiently no longer — your time has come: Summer Olympics 2004, The Last Anticipated Lull.

"The Games have always brought people together in peace to respect universal moral principles," states the official Olympics website — with a flickering promise of respite from international turmoil and polarization at home. LINK

In these times of international distraction — when the nation seems to live and breath to the tune of Vangelis — while who will take home the gold is still TBD, some predictions are safe.

One, it can already be predicted that terms of thematically epic proportions will flow like Gatorade; words like generation, legacy, century, hero, and patriotism will fall from sportscasters lips faster and easier than they can say "doping."

Two, both Democrats and Republicans will ponder and spin what, if anything 16 days of these words, and a corresponding spike in nationalism, will mean to America's own electoral decathlon.

Three, when the Olympics begin, news coverage will turn towards local Olympians, rolling out hours of Behind the Music-style storytelling.

Four, no one can predict how the nation will react if the booing of American athletes is widespread.

Meanwhile the Games will feature athletes with super human abilities from all over the world. And among those called to the duty of defending this Olympic legacy of centuries and generations of Americans will be the youth of Toledo, Tucson and Madison, to name a few places.

This in mind, The Note has put together a list of battleground athletes who, in the coming weeks, might expect lots of local media — and maybe even the coveted presidential congratulations call. (How medalling Olympians would react to hearing the words, "John Kerry is on the phone to congratulate you," is something we haven't figured out yet.)

The big four battlegrounds are listed first, followed by the others in alpha order, broken down by hometown. If yours is represented, expect to get a heavy dose of Olympics at the top of the hour.

(We bet Karl Rove already has this list, completely annotated with Greek cell phone numbers.)



Lebron James — Men's Basketball. Also plays in Cleveland for the Cavaliers. Following his successful NBA rookie campaign, James is a rookie Olympian.


Rau'Shee Warren — Boxing. At 17 he's the youngest American Boxer

Ron Siler — Boxing. He and Warren are already garnering attention in and around Cincinnati.

Gary Hall Jr. — Swimming. 2000 gold medalist and son of Olympian.


Toccarra Montgomery — Women's Wrestling. A favorite to medal.


Blaine Wilson — Gymnastics. He is from the area, went to Ohio State, and continues to live there. His past successes (two-time Olympian; five-time national champ) have made him the best celebrity Columbus can offer.

Miles Avery — Coach of Men's Gymnastics Team. Very well known in Columbus; also coaches the OSU men's gymnastics team

Morgan and Paul Hamm — Men's Gymnastics. The Hamm's are twins.


Katie Smith — Women's Basketball. Solid shot at a medal with Team USA


Devon Vargas — Boxing. Has already generated a decent amount of coverage in Toledo; little-known outside of Northwest Ohio. Has a decent shot at a medal.


Delray Beach

Rhi Jeffrey — Swimming — Del Ray Beach. Medal hopeful.


John Capel — Track & Field — Born in Brooksville. Good shot at medalling

Erin Gilreath — Track & Field — Born in Gainesville; lives in Willison. Potential to medal

Bernard Williams — Track & Field. Won 2000 gold on U.S. relay team that finished with "distasteful" celebration.

Lake Wales

Amare Stoudamire — Basketball. Another young, first-time Olympic basketball player.


Heather Mitts — Soccer. Also Cincinnati native. Mitts is a surprise selection this year, but was a popular star at the University of Florida. The former ABC/ESPN commentator has used her good looks to promote the WUSA soccer league.

Lamar Odom — Men's Basketball. Late addition to the team is in his first Olympics.

Palm Beach

Venus and Serena Williams — Tennis. The two top medal threats for American Tennis.


Jennifer Capriati — Tennis. 1992 Olympian medallist


Maritza Correia — Swimming. First black woman to make the Olympic swimming team.



Swin Cash — Women's Basketball. Teammate of fellow Pennsylvanian Dawn Staley


Mohini Bhardwaj — Women's Gymnastics. This gymnast is considerably older than the average, teenage girl.

Allen Iverson — Men's Basketball. Iverson is Team USA's captain this year.

Dawn Staley — Women's Basketball. Solid shot at a medal with Team USA.


Lauryn Williams — Track & Field. Beat Marion Jones and Gail Devers to qualify. Outside shot at a medal. Also a senior to be at the University of Miami.


Joanna Hayes — Track and Field. Born in Williamsport


Green Bay

Rebecca Giddens — Kayak. 2002 World Champion and medal hopeful


Jeff Nygaard — Beach Volleyball. His partner won the 2000 gold medal, and they've had enormous success since joining up.

For the rest of the battleground states, click here: LINK

Farewell Blake Rasmussen: On Wednesday, we had to say goodbye to another one of our outstanding interns. Blake Rasmussen is heading back to Mount Vernon, Iowa, for his senior year at Cornell College. For someone who has only spent several months of his life in the nation's capital, Blake has an amazing sensibility and appreciation for what makes Washington tick. He did everything we ever asked of him and lots of things we didn't even think to ask for. He is truly a gentleman and a scholar, and we will miss him.

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

— 8:30 am: The Labor Department releases the weekly jobless claims report and July import and export prices — 10:00 am: The Commerce Department issues business inventories for June — 10:00 am: Vice President Cheney criticizes Senator John Kerry's national security credentials at a campaign event at the Dayton Convention Center, Dayton, OH — 10:00 am: The Federal Election Commission holds a meeting, Washington, D.C. — 10:30 am: The U.N. Security Council holds a public meeting to vote on a draft resolution extending the mandate of the U.S. Assistance Mission in Iraq for 12 months — 1:00 pm: Ralph Nader holds a press conference at the Holiday Inn, Tampa, FL — 1:15 pm: Federal Reserve Board Governor Edward Gramlich speaks on rules for assessing Social Security reform at the Retirement Research Consortium Conference at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. — 2:00 pm: Senator John Kerry attends a campaign event at California State University Dominguez Hills, Carson, CA — 2:00 pm: President Bush speaks to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners at their International Training Facility, Las Vegas, NV — 2:00 pm: The Federal Open Market Committee issues minutes from its June 29-30 meeting — 2:30 pm: Charlie Cook gives an on-the-record briefing at the Foreign Press Center on "The 2004 Election: The Undecided Voter," Washington, D.C. — 4:30 pm: The Federal Reserve releases its weekly report on aggregate reserves and the monetary base, factors affecting bank reserves and money supply — 6:00 pm: The Republican National Convention staff and New York Republican State Committee host a convention sign painting party, Albany, NY — 6:30 pm: Ralph Nader speaks at a campaign rally at the Holiday Inn, Tampa, FL — 8:15 pm: Senator Kerry attends a "Believe in America Rally" at the Jackson County Fairgrounds, Central Point, OR — 9:00 pm: President Bush and Mrs. Bush appear on CNN's "Larry King Live" (presumably on tape) — 9:05 pm: President Bush speaks at an RNC dinner fundraiser at the Santa Monica Airport, Santa Monica, CA — 11:15 pm: Senator Kerry is greeted by veterans upon arrival in Eugene, OR