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19 days until the Republican convention 83 days until election day

NEWS SUMMARY Today, The Note gets all serious and macro.

It is our most fundamental job to regularly tell you three things:

1. where the presidential race stands

2. that where the race stands now is only a snapshot

3. that things can change

And/but the reality is — as amazing as this seems — this is now John Kerry's contest to lose.

Forget the hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs (and Team Bush's inability — so far — to enunciate a second-term jobs/growth agenda or find a compelling Rubinesque spokesperson on the economy).

Forget the fact that that we still can't find a single American who voted for Al Gore in 2000 who is planning to vote for George Bush in 2004. (If you are that elusive figure, e-mail us and tell us who you are and why:

Forget the fact that California, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey (sorry, Matthew) aren't in play and never were.

Forget the latest polling out of Ohio (and perhaps Florida … .).

Forget the extraordinary anti-Bush energy that exists on the left and the "how-do-we-whip-our-folks-up?" dilemma that exists on the right.

Forget the various signs that the Democratic challenger is playing in battleground areas for the middle and the president seems geographically and issues-wise to be still shoring up the base.

Forget the persistence of the Democratic advantage on the congressional generic poll question.

Forget the current ad spending advantage the DNC/anti-Bush 527s have over BC04RNC — while John Kerry pinches pennies.

But remember the poisonous job approval, re-elect, and wrong track numbers that hang around the president's neck to this day and then consider the very smart, mustest-of-read essay by Charlie Cook, in which the Zen Master surveys the troubling (and consistently so … ) poll numbers of the incumbent and renders this spot on verdict: LINK

(Now is the time to subscribe to National Journal's outstanding Web site if you don't already, because you need to read the whole thing.)

"President Bush must have a change in the dynamics and the fundamentals of this race if he is to win a second term. The sluggishly recovering economy and renewed violence in Iraq don't seem likely to positively affect this race, but something needs to happen. It is extremely unlikely that President Bush will get much more than one-fourth of the undecided vote, and if that is the case, he will need to be walking into Election Day with a clear lead of perhaps three percentage points."

"This election is certainly not over, but for me, it will be a matter of watching for events or circumstances that will fundamentally change the existing equation — one that for now favors a challenger over an incumbent."

Now, the last thing we want is for Rush Limbaugh to quote from The Note for the third straight day LINK

(OK, we lied, that is the SECOND-to-last thing we want; the LAST thing we want is for Rush to quote from us again AND non-smug Wonkette to quote Rush quoting us … . LINK).

But this is the reality of the race right now, and it is best that everyone knows it. And, as we suggested, there is still plenty of time (and a convention and some debates and world events) for all this to change.

However, there are swirling developments that give one pause.

First off, the new Bush-Cheney TV ad — "Solemn Promise" — out this morning. LINK

The entire ad has the same setting: just a shot (from a side angle) of George W. and Laura Bush. George W. Bush is looking casual in a short-sleeved shirt and Laura Bush is in green. There are occasional close-ups of Bush's hand gestures and then a close-up of his face. Through the ad, Laura Bush looks onward as George W. Bush speaks and nods. They seem to be sitting on a couch and appear to be in a home office of sorts (There's a vague view of a desk in the background.).

The spoken words of the Commander-in-Chief:

"My most solemn duty is to lead our nation, to protect ourselves. I can't imagine the great agony of a mom or a dad having to make the decision about which child to pick up first on September the 11th. We cannot hesitate, we cannot yield, we must do everything in our power to bring an enemy to justice before they hurt us again."

We don't mean to diminish the power of 9/11 or the President's bond with many of the American people over it, but surely there will be for some a whiff of the desperate in using this thematic now, on the eve of the New York convention and when the Bush-Cheney second term agenda is supposed to be being fleshed out.

We know, we know, we know that the pledge to keep us safer is part of that second term agenda, but what else?

We think that issue of who will keep America safer is a perfectly legit one for both sides to argue, and maybe battleground state voters will like to hear about it in a dollop of thirty-second orchestral emotion, but we think it is possible that this will be seen (at least by The Filter) as over the top.

There's also the president's (self-consciously true?) stump line that the best reason to re-elect him is four more years of Laura Bush as First Lady. We think the verbal irony of that speaks for itself.

And there is also the now daily using of Drudge (and Fox and the New York Post ) to try to juice the news cycle with various blasts-from-the-past-into-the-present about John and Teresa Heinz Kerry that we find so transparently desperate that it makes us feel more indignity than that which wells up when John McCain and John Weaver share a booth at Clyde's and reminisce about 2000.

That ALMOST speaks for itself. More on that to come.

Trying to push this boulder up a hill, President Bush, with Sen. John McCain, participates in an "Ask President Bush" event at 3:50 pm ET in Albuquerque and speaks at a rally with Sen. McCain at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 9:00 pm ET in Phoenix.

Vice President Cheney and Mrs. Cheney participate in a Town Hall Meeting at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Joplin, MO at 1:20 pm ET. The Vice President then speaks at a BC'04 rally at Lake View High School in Battle Creek, MI at 5:55 pm ET.

Sen. Kerry meets with seniors at the Valley View Recreation Center to discuss the Kerry/Edwards plan to reduce prescription drug prices in Henderson, NV.

The campaign hopes to make prescripton drug costs a big issue today. We wonder why the president hasn't made bragging about his Medicare bill with that huge new spending a big part of his stump speech (Actually, we think we know why … .).

Sen. Edwards is vacationing at his family home in North Carolina until Friday.

In Florida, counties will conduct public tests of their voting equipment. And "Unfit for Command" is in bookstores everywhere today.

ABC News Vote 2004: the politics of Porter Goss:

The Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen perfectly descriptive lead: "Rep. Porter J. Goss almost certainly will win approval by the Senate as CIA director, but reaction to his nomination on Capitol Hill suggested Tuesday that the confirmation process could be like a visit to the dentist — quick but painful." LINK

Nice Demo op job planting lots of anti-Kerry, anti-CIA quotes in the media re: Mr. Goss, which serves, among other goals, to stir up anxiety within the CIA about the prospect of an insider-outsider taking over.

The New York Times ' David Sanger writes: "In the last two months Mr. Goss has engendered considerable ill will within the very organization he has been tapped to lead, by declaring in a committee report in June that the C.I.A. has been 'ignoring its core mission' and was in 'dysfunctional denial of any need for corrective action.'" LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's David Cloud wraps Goss nomination, Noting that "If Mr. Goss is confirmed, Mr. Bush can claim that as another step forward, while getting an ally who shares his cautious approach to intelligence reform."

Interestingly, one of Mr. Goss' most vociferous critics is uber-neocon Michael Ledeen, who wrote in The Corner yesterday, "I think it's a terrible choice. Not because it will be controversial (Rockefeller's opposition actually speaks well of Goss, in my view at least), but because CIA badly needs an outsider, not someone who is part of the failed culture. And Goss is an insider. First he worked at the failed Agency. Then he worked at the failed oversight committee in Congress."

With apologies to Bo Jones, here are four must-read graphs from the Allen/Pincus article in today's Post:

"Administration officials said the White House calculated that the president could not lose: Democrats would either cave when faced with a fight, or Bush could accuse them of obstructing CIA stability at a time when the nation is under threat of a terrorist attack." LINK

"Republican officials said the White House is also worried by polls showing erosion in Bush's image as commander in chief after Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) endorsed, more than a week before Bush, a reorganization of the intelligence services recommended by the commission investigating the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."

"A Republican political operative, who requested anonymity because of participation in the party's regular conference calls, said the president turned back to Goss because 'poll data showed Kerry had closed the gap with Bush on handling of terrorism and was slightly ahead as fit to be commander in chief.' The operative also said polls showed the president's embrace of the commission's suggestion for a new intelligence director 'was not understood by the public.' Goss had to be named 'to show Bush was moving ahead.'"

"Officials in both parties said Bush's calculations about the outcome of the confirmation process are likely to prove correct."

The New York Times ' ed board isn't happy with the choice, arguing that "Nominating a new candidate for the old, unreformed job of director of central intelligence, as President Bush did yesterday, is not the logical or appropriate place to start" intelligence reform. LINK

Here's what one former committee staffer had to say about the nomination: LINK

"'It's fair to ask what the oversight panel was doing during this period,' said a former committee staff member who worked with Goss, speaking anonymously. 'Where was the oversight when the CIA said Saddam [Hussein] had weapons of mass destruction? The fact is congressional oversight has been weak for more than a decade.'"

The Washington Post 's Bradley Graham reports "several senior Pentagon officials warned yesterday against allowing the proposed creation of a powerful national intelligence director to obstruct the flow of timely information to troops in the field." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the politics of Medicare:

According to a new Harvard/Kaiser survey, "the Medicare prescription drug benefit President Bush signed into law in December has not provided the political boost among seniors that the White House and independent analysts expected," reports the Washington Post 's Ceci Connolly. LINK

"Seven months after enactment and despite the administration's $87 million promotional effort, the program remains largely a muddle for the elderly and disabled whom it is meant to help, the survey found. A fraction — less than 10 percent — of the 41 million eligible for the first component, a new drug discount card, have signed up."

The New York Times ' Robert Pear gets right up top that while a majority of seniors who receive the benefit have a negative view of the law, they want to see it fixed, not repealed, as Democrats have pushed for. LINK

Is the report's release anything other than a coincidence? We DO know that the Democratic Party was hard at work yesterday on this very issue.

We can just hear the Elmendorf in Matt Dowd's voice when he said this in the New York Times : "Maybe it's a first step, maybe it's not everything they wanted, but the president got something done. It's decisive leadership. We'll be happy to have a debate on who provided seniors prescription drugs and who opposed it, or didn't even show up for the vote." LINK

"The survey suggests that there are 'maybe a half-million seniors' who might swing their votes to Democratic candidate John F. Kerry and another '1 million to 2 million whose votes might be up for grabs on this issue,' said Drew E. Altman, president and chief executive of the private, nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation," writes the Los Angeles Times' Vicki Kemper. LINK

The key bloc of voters here is elderly whites. Older Americans in general tend to oppose the war in Iraq most acutely, and are therefore already leaning strongly to Kerry, as ABC News' Polling Director Gary Langer has Noted.

The labor-backed Alliance for Retired Americans (Note to Halbfinger — they're an arm of organized labor, so their endorsing Kerry is not a sign of anything other than a nicely orchestrated Karen Ackerman PR campaign.) are embarking on an intense, multimillion-dollar GOTV campaign for the fall.

And watch for other groups to, shall we say, pop up in battleground states with issue ads on Medicare. On the Republican side of the ledger, groups like the United Seniors Association, Americans for Job Security and the 60+ coalition have not gone away.

Our one bit of pooh-pooh: for months, Democrats have been telling us that Arizona (the Florida of the West) would be competitive because Gov. Janet Napolitano's prescription drug program was much more popular than President Bush's. So far, the prediction has not panned out.

Sen. Kerry today will stress reimportation. "Leaders on both sides of the aisle — from Trent Lott to John McCain to Ted Kennedy — agree on reimportation, and it's time the one in the White House did too," Kerry is set to say.

From a Kerry memo released this morning: "Kerry and Edwards will allow reimportation of safe, FDA-approved prescription drugs to give Americans access to the substantial discounts for prescription drugs in Canada, and require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate better prices for prescription drugs under Medicare. They will end loopholes that keep more affordable prescription drugs from the market and help states provide relief by allowing them to extend Medicaid discounts."

Some 350 orders of prescription drugs shipped from Canada were seized in Miami yesterday, reports the Pioneer Press' Warren Wolfe. LINK

The Republican National Convention:

The New York Times ' brassy and classy Jennifer Steinhauer reports "union officials representing firefighters and police officers said yesterday that they would not rule out strikes or other work stoppages during the Republican National Convention, raising the stakes in their battle to get new labor contracts with the city." It's rare to see Mayor Bloomberg compared to Jessica Simpson in any sense, but the point about the awkwardness between the protesting cops and those assigned to protect Bloomberg is an interesting one. LINK

New York City cops and firefighters walking a picket line outside Madison Square Garden probably wasn't the image in Karl Rove's mind when New York was selected to host the convention. LINK

Fresh from the campaign trail, the New York Post 's Stefan Friedman has the latest on where 250,000 anti-Bush protestors may end up on Sunday, Aug. 29. And do Note Ed Skyler (brother of famed playwright Tristine Skyler) calling for an end to theatrics. LINK

The New York Times ' Michael Slackman looks at the DNC oppo efforts planned for New York during the GOP convention. LINK

The New York Observer takes a look at convention security. LINK

"At least 20,000 law-enforcement officers from agencies as diverse as the Secret Service and Connecticut-based civilian units of the Army National Guard will help secure the convention. Considering that the convention will attract 48,000 visitors, from delegates and lobbyists to the media horde, that amounts to one security officer for every 2.4 civilians at the convention."

What Ken Mehlman revealed to the New York Press Club gathering on 42nd Street in June still holds true according to the New York Observer. Ground Zero will remain very much in the background during the convention. LINK

" … the ash-stained firefighter who stood next to the president when he spoke via bullhorn to rescue workers at the site, Bob Beckwith, told The Observer that he has not been contacted by anyone in connection with the Republican convention. He added that he is not planning to attend any convention-related events."

"With little more than two weeks left before the Republican National Convention, organizers of a massive antiwar march have backed away from an agreement to hold the rally on Manhattan's far West Side, setting the stage for a showdown with the Bloomberg administration," writes the Washington Post 's Michelle Garcia. LINK


ABC News' Marc Ambinder broke off from Ric Flair's "To Be The Man" last night to read "Unfit For Command" in its entirety.

The book is clear, crisply written, occasionally compelling, and full of polarizing firepower. It's rather short, padded with long excerpts from Kerry speeches, interviews with Swift Boat veterans, and other books.

Regnery employed its usual brilliant pre-publication marketing strategy — leak selective excerpts and copies to sympathetic reporters and use Drudge to hammer it home. Human Events, the venerable and respected conservative weekly, has been the leader in Swift Boat coverage, and deserves credit for it own deft publicity.

So it might sell a lot of copies. If you're inclined to think John Kerry is brash, self-possessed and occasionally immature (i.e., the Kerry campaign staff demographic), this book will confirm your suspicions. If you're a partisan, you'll have your perceptions reconfirmed, whether you love Kerry and think he's a hero or hate him and think he's a fraud.

If you don't know about him at all, there's a good chance you'll be at least partially swayed to the view expressed by the book's title. And therein lies the danger for the Kerry campaign, even if most of the charges in the book are thinly documented and tinged with animus.

The three Purple Hearts section will seem familiar. The Kerry campaign has successfully rebutted many of the charges, and the fact remains that even if Kerry was only lightly injured thrice, he was injured thrice, and he was injured in Vietnam while fighting for his country.

Ironically, a book which touts the virtue of strict military discipline and absolute adherence to regulations (It castigates Kerry for trying to sneak to Saigon with his crewmates … ) criticizes Kerry when he invokes an "obscure" rule that allows him to be sent him after getting wounded three times.

Pages 45 through 49 focus on Cambodia, and that's about the only portion of the book that truly puzzles us and seems to puzzle the Kerry campaign. You make the call:

Was John Kerry in Cambodia during Christmas of 1968? If so, why does Doug Brinkley's sympathetic "Tour of Duty" recount what seems to be an entirely different incident?

Kerry has used the incident to justify an important development in his political evolution, namely, his creeping suspicion that his government was lying to the people.

Here's what he told the AP as late as 1992: "We were told, 'Just go up there and do your patrol. Everybody was over there (in Cambodia). Nobody thought twice about it,' Kerry said. "One of the missions, which Kerry, at the time, was ordered not to discuss, involved taking CIA operatives into Cambodia to search for enemy enclaves.'I can remember wondering, 'If you're going to go, what happens to you,' Kerry said."

In 1979, he said this: "The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which president Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

The new book says this: "All the living commanders in Kerry's chain of command … . deny that Kerry was ever ordered to Cambodia. They indicate that Kerry would have been seriously disciplined or court-martialed had he gone there. At least three of five crewmen on Kerry's PCF 44 boat — Bill Zaldonis, Steven Hatch, Steve Gardner — deny that they or their boat were ever in Cambodia. The remaining two declined to be interviewed for this book. Gardner, in particular, will never forget those days in late December when he was wounded on PCF 44, not in Cambodia, but miles away in Vietnam."

"The Cambodia incursion story is not included in Tour of Duty. Instead, Kerry replaces the story with a report about a mortar attack that occurred on Christmas Eve 1969 "near the Cambodia border") in a town called Sa Dec, some fifty-five miles from the Cambodian border. Somehow, Kerry's secret illegal mission to Cambodia, which he recounted on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1986, is now a firefight at Sa Dec and a Christmas day spent back at the base writing entries in his journal."

We tried to reach Douglas Brinkley, the historian-author of "Tour of Duty," but he was vacationing and unavailable for comment.

Last night, Kerry adviser Michael Meehan responded to the claims in an interview with ABC News' Stu Chamberlain.

"The Mekong Delta consists of the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, so on Christmas Eve in 1968, he was in fact on patrol … in the Mekong Delta between Cambodia and Vietnam. He was ambushed, they fired back, he was fired upon from both sides, from the Cambodian side and the Vietnam side during that day in 1968." "What I've seen in this book is a bunch of people lying about John Kerry did. John Kerry actually did command a boat in Vietnam, ran patrols along the border in the waters, on behalf of the United States in 1968 and 1969."

Morning show wrap:

Sen. McCain spoke exclusively to Diane Sawyer this morning from the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas.

On President Bush's nomination of Rep. Porter Goss as the next CIA Director, McCain said that Goss "has built up a reputation of bipartisanship" and "has the trust and confidence of the United States."

Shown a clip of President Bush's new ad, "Solemn Duty," which invokes the Sept. 11 attacks and the war on terror, McCain said he had no issue with it. "I think the defining event of this presidency was the events of 9/11," he said.

Questioned about Kerry's pledge to reduce troop levels in Iraq in the first year of his presidency, McCain said "I'd love to bring them home tomorrow" but said he didn't see how that was possible. "We cannot bring anyone home [yet], and in certain areas we have to strengthen" the United States' presence in Iraq, he said.

And on new reports that Osama Bin Laden may be targeting government officials, McCain said that he not been told to do anything differently than he does every day.

Asked by Matt Lauer on Today if the announcement was a "win-win" for the president — that Goss would either be chosen or Democrats who blocked his nomination would be accused of politicizing the pick — Sen. Dick Durbin said "I think you analyzed it correctly. I think the White House is playing this politically and I think that's unfortunate."

ABC News' Kate Snow spent Monday exclusively with First Lady Laura Bush as she campaigned in Michigan and Ohio.

Bush's plane doesn't have the same amenities as Air Force One does, Snow Noted, although the food was aplenty and the service was constant. And Snow got to peak into the First Lady's home-packed breakfast: a bottle of orange juice, a muffin, and a banana.

Throughout the day the Laura Bush was greeted by many adoring Republican supporters and even a few critics; unlike her daughter, she understands the cameras are always watching.

And Snow reported that campaign officials view her as the President's "most effective surrogate" and plan to utilize her often.

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

President Bush travels to Sen. McCain's home turf today and Jon Kamman of the Arizona Republic Notes that in Phoenix tonight, "thousands of frenzied supporters will raise the roof with cheers while backers of Democrat John Kerry may chortle that with friends like McCain, Bush doesn't need enemies." LINK

Kamman reprints some of the points that ACT made in a press release on the differences between the president and McCain, but Notes that "Through it all, however, he has unequivocally backed the president for a second term."

And The Note officially L-O-V-Es the forehead kiss!!!!

The Washington Post 's Mike Allen and Jonathan Weisman look at the "unenviable" choice that his strong push for tax cuts now gives President Bush: "He can either concede that his $1.7 trillion tonic has not worked as advertised, or he can insist that the economy is strong despite the slowdown in growth and job creation." LINK

The Post duo look at the effectiveness of the tax cuts in jump starting the economy: "But to many, that kick is starting to look more like a sugar high than a cure for the economy's underlying weaknesses."

The issue could be a political hot potato for the president's re-election strategy: "Republican strategists say Bush is so closely associated with the tax cuts that he has no choice but to defend them."

Boffo local coverage for Bush in Florida: LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny wraps his look at the Bush campaign's day in Florida with a description of the new Bush-McCain buddy movie. LINK

Key graf: "Few leading Republicans have aggravated the Bush administration more in the past three years than McCain. But through his wide appeal to independent voters and his indisputable military credentials, few Republicans can be more of a symbolic help than McCain."

Bob Hillman looks at the Bush/McCain day slightly differently than the other national political reporters: "Despite their big bear hug at the start of the day and the president's invitation for the Arizona senator to spend the night at his Texas ranch, their sometimes-frosty relations have not entirely thawed." LINK

Hillman picks up on one interesting sign to support that observation: "Usually on these campaign bus trips, Mr. Bush has local reporters aboard for a chat … There were second thoughts, though, what with Mr. McCain incensed at a new television ad by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."

"'It's a really busy day,' said Bush campaign press secretary Scott Stanzel, adding the president has 'a lot of stops today in a short amount of time.'"

"President Bush mocked rival John Kerry's stand on the Iraq war Tuesday and rejected the Democrat's timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops as the Republican campaigned with Kerry pal and Vietnam War hero Sen. John McCain," writes the AP's Scott Lindlaw. LINK

The Washington Post 's Dan Balz Notes President Bush "taunted" Sen. Kerry "over what he called another Kerry reversal on Iraq, seeking to put his challenger on the defensive over the central foreign policy issue of the election as he campaigned through heavily Republican territory in this battleground state." LINK

"Bush added that 'after months of questioning my motives and my credibility, Sen. Kerry agrees with me that, even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons we all believe were there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power.' Then, with sarcasm in his voice, the president concluded: 'I want to thank Sen. Kerry for clearing that up.'

Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds Notes: "Each campaign had planned to discuss other issues Tuesday — job training for Bush, nuclear waste for Kerry. But as has happened before, they came back to Iraq." LINK

Yet they approach the issue from two very different perspectives: "Bush uses the war to support his claim that Kerry vacillates. Kerry uses the war to buttress his claim that Bush lacks credibility."

Carl Hulse of the New York Times Notes that President Bush was "[s]etting out on one of his most extended tours of the campaign season" and said the BC04 campaign response to Sen. Kerry's Iraq comments were "another shift in position by the Democratic presidential nominee and an acknowledgement that administration policy on a crucial national security matter was correct after all." LINK

The Washington Times ' Bill Sammon says that "Mr. Bush took obvious delight in the concession" of Sen. Kerry on Iraq. LINK

Sammon likes that word, Noting: "The concession was welcomed by the White House, which used it to reinforce its portrayal of Mr. Kerry as an overly 'nuanced' flip-flopper."

Knight Ridder's Lesley Clark writes that "Bush launched a charm offensive, working the crowd without a tie or jacket [in Florida]." LINK

Giving ACT one more thing to write an e-mail about, Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News reports that people looking for tickets to see President Bush on Friday in Portland were told "the only way to get tickets was to volunteer to come in and make calls touting Bush to swing voters." LINK

Tracey Schmitt, BC04 spokeswoman for the West, tells the Daily News that "'someone misspoke' and that was not the campaign's policy."

USA Today 's Judy Keen writes about the relationship between President Bush and Gov. Schwarzenegger and how that could affect the vote in California (and other states) this November. LINK

The Seattle Times' Warren Cornwall previews a Friday fundraiser that the president plans to attend on the Washington coast that organizers expect to raise $1.75 million. LINK

The Joplin Globe (MO) welcomes Vice President Cheney this morning with this (sort of ominous) message on its editorial page:

"Traditionally, this area has been a Republican stronghold. But we should never be taken for granted. Times and attitudes can change." LINK

"On a less positive note, we wish that your appearance here could have been open to more Southwest Missourians, not just a few hundred of the GOP faithful."

But concludes on this upbeat point: "So let us once more say: Welcome to Joplin, Mr. Vice President."

And a day before Vice President Cheney heads to town, Ralph Reed sat down with the Battle Creek Enquirer Editorial Board and told it the race will be won "by the candidate who can get more of his fans to vote." LINK

The savvy Eric Greene Notes "Reed's assessment isn't exactly rocket science when it comes to campaign strategy."

Bill Salisbury, hailing from the Pioneer Press, does his best to capture the essence that is Laura Bush in Waite Park, Minnesota. LINK

Womanpower is apparently a word (really!) and the First Lady was touting it in Minnesota like it's her job. Check out the write-up from Chuck Haga at the Star Tribune. LINK

The First Lady then took her womanpower down to Iowa. The Des Moines Register's Erin Jordan tells us what happened. LINK

"Vice President Dick Cheney attacked the central theme of John Kerry's campaign during a Des Moines-area rally Tuesday, arguing that the Democratic presidential nominee lacks the basic understanding of the war on terrorism to protect Americans," writes the Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Rob Borsellino wins the prize for Column About Today's Cheney Visit to Iowa That Had Us Rolling on the Floor Laughing. LINK

The Washington Post 's Mark Leibovich profiles Laura Bush, Noting how she differs from Teresa Heinz Kerry but HATES being asked about her. And he makes this trenchant observation:. LINK

"Unseen but oft-invoked, Heinz Kerry elicits strong and at times nasty reactions. 'Telling someone to shove it in public is inappropriate in my view,' says Helene Hartman, of Yardley, Pa. She supports Laura Bush because she supports her husband and, more than that, she "brings a level of dignity and composure to the role of first lady."

"A Washington nonprofit group with ties to the Republican Party is airing radio ads in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and seven other cities, asking if U.S. Senator John Kerry takes 'the black community for granted?'" reports the Philadelphia Daily News. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

The Washington Post 's Jim VandeHei wraps Sen. Kerry's discussion with community leaders in Las Vegas, during which he "said Bush is threatening the security and the economic vitality of Nevadans with his plan to ship spent nuclear waste from around the country for storage in the mountain 90 miles northwest of here."LINK

Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times sketches out the lay of the land in Nevada. LINK

The Las Vegas Review-Journal writes: "John Kerry sounded as if he were stumping in Nevada in late October, not the hottest summer day of the year Tuesday when he implored a partisan crowd of more than 12,000" for their help in winning this crucial election. LINK

The Reno Gazette-Journal also writes up Kerry's visit, Noting what Kerry promised Nevada residents in his speech and then adding, "His speech offered no plans for paying for those promises, for which the Republican Party has long criticized him." LINK

"Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry has raised more money from California than any candidate has ever collected in one state in any election," reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK

There's a major organized labor voter mobilization going on in order to bring out the vote for Senator Kerry this November, and Leigh Strobe of the AP has the details.

"The AFL-CIO alone is spending $44 million to mobilize union households. AFSCME, with 1.5 million members, has budgeted $48 million, said (Gerald) McEntee, who has been assigned to oversee labor operations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union has allocated $65 million." LINK

And not to pick on the great David Halbfinger again, but that outreach includes the Alliance for Retired Americans!!!

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

"An Amtrak conductor who is a Republican congressional candidate has been suspended without pay for suggesting his train passengers should vote against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry," reports the AP. The conductor says he used the train's p.a. system to tell passengers they would be delayed because of Kerry's train "and quipped that they should vote accordingly in November." LINK

Liz Sidoti of the AP lauds CMAG, the Campaign Media Analysis Group. Working with both parties, this group is indispensable to campaigns for tracking what opponents are doing. "[F]or eight years, CMAG has been the place political professionals have turned for day-to-day pictures of the political advertising landscape as they determine where to run ads, how much money to spend and what messages to project." LINK

True that.

USA Today 's Larry Copeland writes about the band of mayors touring through Ohio on Thursday and Friday and the issues they're hoping to bring to the forefront of the presidential debate. LINK

Walter Shapiro examines the intricacies of Kerry's answer to the question about whether he would have supported the Iraq war even in hindsight. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

"Now that you've done your time, it's time to VOTE," reads a billboard displayed in Nevada, part of an initiative by a band of progressive groups working to get the vote out in Nevada for those who got out of jail. LINK

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Notes a federal judge "is expected to rule today on a lawsuit filed by the Missouri Democratic Party in an effort to throw out part of the three-year-old state law governing provisional ballots." LINK

How this will effect HAVA grants and Nov. 2 is TBD.

The Columbus Dispatch's Robert Vitale writes about the precautions that Ohio's Franklin County is taking to ensure a safe and uncomplicated election day. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

The Pioneer Press ed board does its best to sort out the economic numbers in the Land of Lakes and decide oh-so subjectively if happy days are here again, or if we'll have four more years of hell. LINK

In a special, Oregon only section of the Note today: The Oregonian has your complete guide to the dueling Bush and Kerry visits to the state late this week. Thus ends our special section. LINK

While polls attempt to determine if this election will inspire record turnout, some officials are already predicting a definite "yes"! "We have never seen this level of interest. There's a very keen attention to this election I haven't seen in 26 years in this business," said an official of The Washoe County Registrar of Voters in Nevada. LINK

K-mart may claim to cut prices but yesterday the company also announced it would be cutting more jobs, saying it would dismiss 10 percent of its headquarters staff in a budget move affecting about 200 workers. LINK

"A quarter of the teachers in Michigan's charter schools are lacking a license, leaving state officials questioning how those teachers will meet strict federal requirements that they be highly qualified," reports the Detroit Free Press. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

If we had more time, we could write a verse about yesterday's primaries, but we don't, so all we'll say:

Coors v. Salazar in Colorado.

Rep. Majette v. Rep. Isakson in Georgia

The GOP got one self-funder; Democrats lost one, but not a bad night for either Paul Tewes or Jay Timmons.

Biggest question: what does Peter Coors do now to repair his image to moderates after a bruising primary?

Alan Keyes is accusing Barack Obama of shying away from debates he was previously all about. The Chicago Tribune's Ford and Mendell quote Keyes as saying "When he was facing Jack Ryan, he was Abraham Lincoln. When he was facing an empty chair, possibly, he was Muhammad Ali … I step into the ring and what happens? Well, all of a sudden, he's running out of the ring, looking for the ropes, sizing up the number of exits." LINK

Of course, Obama says he's not shying away from debates but thinks they will be fruitless until his challenger becomes familiar with issues important to Illinois voters.

In response to criticism that Keyes is a carpetbagger, the Washington Post 's Al Kamen Notes "Federalism has always been a bit overrated." LINK

And he introduces a contest to help Bill Pascoe, who needs desperately to staff up!

It looks like it may be George Bush vs. Gray Davis in the California Senate race this year. The Los Angeles Times also has this fantastic detail from the candidates' first and only scheduled debate. LINK

"The event quickly got off to a rocky start. As soon as Boxer began her opening remarks, the link failed and Channel 4 viewers saw at least two minutes of dead air. When the picture returned, Jones was speaking."

According to the clips, Doug Gallagher dominated last night's Florida Senate debate.

Nader-Camejo '04:

Adding to the mounting list of evidence of Republican support for Nader, Scott Greenberger of the Boston Globe reports a firm headed by a well-known GOP consultant in New Hampshire has been collecting signatures for Nader. Their pitch: "without Nader, Bush would not be president." LINK

Nader, in his own words, in the Orlando Sentinel. LINK

Neil Vigdor of Greenwich Times Notes, "Connecticut is poised once again to have two native sons on its ballot for president." Though, Nader's official status will not be certified before Labor Day. LINK

In a release that hit inboxes at 11:02 pm ET yesterday, Nader beckoned: "Is there no end to John Kerry's me-too-ism on the Iraq War?" Nader criticized Kerry for responding to "Bush bait" by saying he would still vote for the Iraq war knowing what he knows today. LINK

Nader Presidential campaign has announced Southwest Airlines as its unofficial campaign airline. "George W. Bush has his Air Force One to under-reimburse for campaign trips. John Kerry has his leased Boeing 757 to tour the country. But we have Southwest Airlines and its entire fleet of aircraft at our disposal," states Ralph Nader. (Yeah, The Note is a sucker for mini-bags of Jelly Bellies too.)

Can you hear the clock ticking in Oregon? Steve Law of the Oregon Statesman Journal reports Nader backers hope the third time is a charm after their first two attempts to put him on the ballot were met with interference from Howard Dean, local Democrats and televised sports.LINK

Nader needs at least 15,306 bullet-proof petition signatures by Aug. 24. Unlike round two Citizens for Sound Economy says it won't recruit support for Nader. "We've decided not to put any (more) financial resources into this," says Oregon CSE director Russ Walker who "questioned whether the Nader campaign was organized well enough to get on the ballot." LINK

Third parties:

Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik is running two television and two radio advertisements in New Mexico this week, in a full court press campaign that has been dubbed "Operation New Mexico Freedom." LINK.

Set against the stirring images of flag covered caskets, Badnarik dubs himself the "Peace President." The second commercial begs the questions, "Are you disgusted with the welfare system and illegal immigration? Are you angry with all the gun control laws that we're are forced to live with? Are you fed with our tax laws, our deficit, and our government overspending? Do you want to stop voting for the lesser of two evils?"

The campaign claims Badnarik is now polling at 5 percent across the state, according to a Rasmussen poll (LINK) with Bush at 43 percent and Kerry at 50 percent.

Meanwhile, national Green Party candidate David Cobb campaigned in Bush country, Great Falls Montana. Peter Johnson of the Great Falls Tribune quotes Cobb, "George W. Bush is going to win the Electoral College in Montana by winning the majority of votes," he asserted. "It's not likely — it's a guarantee.

"So we say to progressive voters in Montana: Don't waste your vote on either of the candidates from the 'corporate parties,' but invest your vote in the future of the Green Party, and help us grow the movement for peace, justice, democracy and ecology." LINK

The economy:

The Fed raised short-term interest rates by a quarter of a point, reports the Wall Street Journal 's Greg Ip, reasoning that the rise in energy prices is responsible for the slowing of economic growth. With its statement, "The economy nevertheless appears poised to resume a stronger pace of expansion going forward," the Fed is expected to raise interest rates in its next few meetings, and Ip Notes, "Paradoxically, higher interest rates, which a sitting president normally deplores, might be good news for President Bush's re-election hopes."

Free Matt Cooper:

The New York Times ' editorial board sticks up for Matt Cooper of Time magazine. LINK

And take a look at this — a chance to buy a real "Free Matt Cooper" T-shirt and it wasn't even our idea: LINK

A Freed Jonathan Greenberger:

Special thanks to the wonderful Jonathan Greenberger, a rising senior at Washington University in St. Louis. A dedicated, hard-working, super-smart intern of ours, we begged him to stay and quit school but he couldn't. We wish him the best.

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET): —9:00 am: The House Select Intelligence Committee holds an open hearing on the 9/11 Commission findings, Washington, DC —9:00 am: The House Armed Services Committee holds an open hearing on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission on the Department of Defense, Washington, DC —10:00 am: The Labor Department issues Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for June —10:00 am: Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards holds a press conference to campaign for Sen. Kerry and speak about the politics of stem cell research at Congress Square Park, Portland, ME —10:00 am: Filmmaker John Sayles speaks at the National Press Club on the intersection of politics and film and his new movie, "Silver City," Washington, DC —10:00 am: Anti-war organization, "Not In Our Name," holds press conference to reaffirm demands for a permit to rally in Central Park during the Republican Convention, New York, NY —10:00 am: The U.N. Security Council holds a public meeting to hear a briefing by Undersecretary-General Kieran Prendergast on the situation in the Middle East, New York, NY —10:30 am: The American Petroleum Institute issues its weekly national petroleum report —11:45 am: Secretary of State Colin Powell meets with the ambassador-designate of India, Washington, DC 1:00 pm: Former Vice President Al Gore speaks to Music Row Democrats, Nashville, TN —12:30 pm: Sen. John Kerry meets with seniors at the Valley View Recreation Center to discuss the Kerry/Edwards plan to reduce prescription drug prices, Henderson, NV —12:30 pm: Sen. Richard Lugar speaks on the weapons of mass destruction nonproliferation agenda in the presidential election year at the National Press Club, Washington, DC —12:30 pm: The Free Congress Foundation holds a panel discussion on factors determining the 2004 election with Ed Kilgore of the Democratic Leadership Council, Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and journalists Robert Novak, Stu Rothenberg and John Judis, Washington, DC —1:00 pm: Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) addresses a National Press Club luncheon on the weapons of mass destruction nonproliferation agenda in the presidential election year, Washington, DC —1:20 pm: Vice President and Mrs. Cheney participate in a Town Hall Meeting at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center, Joplin, MO —2:00 pm: The Treasury Department issues its monthly budget for June —3:00 pm: The U.N. Security Council holds closed consultations on the secretary-generals latest report on the U.N. assistance mission in Iraq, New York, NY —3:50 pm: President Bush, with Sen. John McCain, participates in an "Ask President Bush" event, Albuquerque, NM —5:55 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks at a BC'04 rally at Lake View High School, Battle Creek, MI —9:00 pm: President Bush, with Sen. McCain, speaks at a rally at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, AZ