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NEWS SUMMARY: Democrats who want John Kerry to be elected spend a lot their time these days fascinated and frightened by the prospect that President Bush will replace Vice President Cheney on the ticket.

Acknowledging that it all may be inside the Beltway clamor, the New York Times ' Elisabeth Bumiller looks at a new "rumor" in Washington that "Mr. Cheney recently dismissed his personal doctor so that he could see a new one, who will conveniently tell him in August that his heart problems make him unfit to run with Mr. Bush." LINK

How the talented Ms. Bumiller gets just above the front-page fold of her paper today with a story that includes the word "rumor" in the headline is really beyond us.

Look — the only reason to replace Mr. Cheney is if the calculus is made that doing so would increase the chances of Bush re-election.

And that calculation could NEVER be made precisely, since removing him would bring on at least some amount of base unhappiness (particularly if he were replaced by a moderate); some accusations of implicit concession of error on Iraq and other policies; and some charges of political craveness.

Bumiller's story has some clever suggestions that Republicans are a part of a three-way conversation on this, but for the most part, this is a Democrat-and-media dialogue.

In other political news (our all-time favorite transition … ), watch for and consider:

1. John Kerry at the NAACP, as the Congressional Black Caucus slams his new black-targeted ad campaign in the Los Angeles Times, and a likely escalation in the war of words between the two presidential campaigns on all this.

2. Another devastating media focus group in Ohio for the President.

3. The lessons learned from the gay marriage vote are all over the map.

4. Ditka's "no" leaves the Illinois GOP and George Allen without an obvious Senate candidate.

5. Sen. Clinton's convention role remains TBD.

6. The KE team on Imus included plenty of flirting but surprisingly little Edwards interrupting of Kerry; the duo brushed aside the usual questions about the $87 billion, the war, and others. And apparently, Kerry hasn't fully explained why he chose him. One interesting exchange:

Keying off of Sen. Edwards contention Monday on "Today" that Cheney has "lost touch," Imus asked Edwards if he knew how much a gallon of milk and a six pack of beer costs in Albuquerque, N.M.

Edwards said, "I know about what it costs. A half a gallon costs $2.30, $2.40."

Imus said a gallon costs $2.99.

Edwards declined to offer a guess as to the cost of a six-pack of beer, saying, "I haven't drank a six pack of beer in a long time. I haven't bought a six pack of beer in years. I don't know."

On the trail today, as we said/wrote, Sen. Kerry addresses the NAACP convention in Philadelphia this morning at 10:00 am ET after two down days in Boston, something President Bush declined, given the NAACP's ads and criticism of him since 2000. President Bush, though, plans to address the Urban League next week in Detroit.

Sen. Kerry also visits his first front porch as part of his campaign's "Front Porch Tour" in Lansdowne, Pa. at 1:30 pm ET, and travels to Charleston this afternoon for an evening fundraiser and rally.

President Bush signs the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act at the White House this morning at 10:05 am ET and meets with the president of Mongolia at 1:55 pm ET.

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