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ABC News Vote 2004: the politics stem cells: In an interview with ABC News' Kate Snow, First Lady Laura Bush defended the president against the criticism he has faced in recent days for his position on stem cells, saying, "My husband is the first one who funded stem cell research … he's the only one to fund stem cell research."

Snow went on to report that a new poll suggests that public opinion heavily supports stem cell research across party lines. In a press briefing yesterday, Senator John Kerry said that there is no contradiction in his support for stem cell research and his belief that life begins at conception. He also argued that stem cell research gives people fighting disease hope and that they do not deserve to have doors closed to them in fighting disease. When Mrs. Bush was asked whether she felt her husband's opponents were trying to raise false hope, Laura Bush replied, "Yes I think they are."

Ron Fournier interviewed Laura Bush too. LINK

The New York Times ' Randy Kennedy details the back-and-forth faceoff, looking at Mrs. Bush's uncharacteristic headlong charge into campaign rough-and-tumble, criticizing those who are pushing to expand stem cell research by implying that cures to diseases could come quickly. LINK Peter Wallsten and James Rainey get on the front page of the Los Angeles Times with their recap of Monday's back and forth. Here are your two nut graphs: LINK

"'There is no question this is a very significant sleeper issue which we are trying to awaken,' said Mark Mellman, Kerry's pollster."

More Wallsten/Rainey: "While pollsters and Republican strategists say it remains unclear whether the stem cell issue will prove decisive for swing voters, they agree that the White House was stung by the issue's sudden rise in prominence after the death of Reagan, a conservative icon."

The Wall Street Journal 's Antonio Regaldo and Bob Davis look at how Senator Kerry's support for therapeutic cloning of embryos could be a problem for voters to accept in the conversation about stem cell research, and that Kerry must walk a fine line to avoid undermining his position. Despite Kerry's call to prohibit cloned embryos from developing for more than 14 days, or from being implanted, the discussion of cloning could end up muddling the discussion over increasing the number of stem-cell lines available for research, some proponents fear.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Steven Walters and Patrick Marley give Kerry's stem cell advocacy a local lead, writing, "On the campus where the national debate over embryonic stem cell research began, top Wisconsin Democrats, a scientist and a 7-year-old boy with juvenile diabetes called Monday for the election [Kerry] to end restrictions on that research." LINK

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