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5 days until the Democratic convention 40 days until the Republican convention 104 days until election day

NEWS SUMMARY: Don't get distracted by Sandy Berger's troubles (or his pants, or even his socks) — there are some big things going on out there that will actually determine who wins the election.

Tonight, post-network news, President Bush is expected to deliver a version of some sort of semi-"new" stump speech — and the setting couldn't be more symbolically resonant.

In a city he rails against (Washington), to an audience who already fervently supports him (loyal Republican donors), for an event that represents the area of both his greatest political success and a diminished advantage (a big GOP fundraiser), Mr. Bush will become Pre-butter in Chief of the upcoming Democratic convention.

BC04 Spokesgal Nicolle Devenish tells ABC News that tonight, ""President Bush begins to discuss his vision for a second term as part of a process that begins in earnest in early August. Tonight's speech begins to touch on some broad themes."

The president road-tested the speech New Haven-style yesterday.

(On the other big Bush campaign news — the presidential offspring's protruding tongue, apparently aimed at the media on the campaign trail yesterday), Devenish says of Jenna Bush," She's a spirited campaigner who was having fun on the campaign trail.")

Yesterday, the president self-consciously suggested to one audience that he wasn't going to be just about running down John Kerry, but that remains a big part of the BC04 campaign strategy.

Several big newspapers this morning eat Dan Balz's dust in pointing out that reporters, Democrats, and even some Republicans have increasingly demanded to know what a re-elected George W. Bush would actually do with the office.

Forget Labor Day — that will turn out to be the third or fourth unofficial campaign kick-off of 2004.

The day after the Democratic convention ends, both campaigns will be out there full throttle on the road, fighting for every advantage.

So it's never too early to size up the two sides on the Big Ms — money, message, machine, momentum, and Men.

Money

For most of the Bush years, Democrats have been at a practical and psychological disadvantage on money, even with all the union spending. And Republicans have rightly pointed out that the president's hard dollar donations were a sign of fervent grassroots energy.

Who knows which side will eventually end up having more global resources, but John Kerry and Democrat/liberal 2004 fundraising — raised more by anti-Bush ire than love of Kerry — is one of the biggest political stories of the last 25 years.

Advantage: tie.

Message

We'll see what the president comes up with to add to the security, tax, and family values messages that are pretty effective. But from where we stand right now, with the Kerry campaign message still hard to discern, it is quite possible that the incumbent actually holds the weaker hand.

Advantage: Kerry.

Machine

Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove have built the most organized, well-funded, and technically proficient presidential campaign machine ever, including coordination with state parties and major down ballot candidates. The Kerry campaign is trying to catch up, but it never will.

Advantage: Bush.

Momentum

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