ABC News' The Note

"A new Wall Street Journal /NBC News poll documents the toll that months of setbacks have taken on the president's standing. A majority of Americans say that the Iraq war has increased terrorist threats, not reduced them, and that the U.S. economy is headed for long-term trouble. More voters want Mr. Bush defeated than want him re-elected."

"By the end of the Democratic convention late this month, Bush advisers say, the traditional 'bounce' will leave Mr. Kerry with a national lead of 10 percentage points or more. Then, they argue, the president will begin to climb back — initially because convention bounces tend to wear off at the rate of one percentage point a week and later from favorable publicity for Mr. Bush's own convention a month later. At that session in New York, just days before the third anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Mr. Bush will have the chance to fill in the blanks for voters about his second-term agenda, which is expected to include overhauling Social Security and expanding health-care coverage."

Note well those two issues: Social Security and health care coverage expansion. If Harwood is right (and when isn't he???) that is one of the most key things in any newspaper in America today.

Tad Devine, call Peter Hart: "'John Kerry's numbers … are really stagnant,' Mr. Hart says, with even many members of his own party reserving judgment about his candidacy."

That is about as close to a "to be sure" paragraph as Harwood gets.

The San Francisco Chronicle Notes the impact shock jock Howard Stern could have on the outcome of the election. "A recent study by pollster Mark Penn for the New Democrat Network calls the outspoken radio personality a possible secret weapon for Kerry because of his influence over a loyal army of as many as 8 million to 10 million listeners, one-third of them independent voters, who tune in daily on more than four dozen stations across the country — many in such battleground states as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Florida." LINK

"Howard Stern said Wednesday that he'll "work like a dog" to urge his millions of listeners to vote as a bloc for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry," Notes USA Today 's Peter Johnson. LINK The New York Times ' Michael Erard writes about those crazy online political videogames and the campaign staffers behind them. LINK The Los Angeles Times' Nick Anderson also has an Internet oriented piece, writing about how that medium is a place where the harder punches can run wild. LINK

Calvin Woodward of the AP asserts Bush and Kerry are not giving voters a clear choice on the their positions on Iraq. "Not since Vietnam has a presidential campaign been so caught up in foreign policy, but the crisp choice from that time — for or against a war — is missing now. Iraq, issue-watchers say, has staged its own invasion of sorts, a reciprocal shock and awe on the American political landscape. The candidates talk about many other things, but affordable-college plans and job programs just aren't holding a candle to the tumult abroad." LINK

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

Vice President Cheney delivers a campaign speech in New Orleans and attends a congressional fundraiser for Calder Clay in Macon, Ga. ABC's Karen Travers has been told by an official in the Vice President's office that this will be a new speech, and since it is his first major speech since the handover in Iraq, it will be big on foreign policy.

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