The Note

ABC News Vote 2004: Balz and Sanger: Twin pronouncements from the Washington Post and the New York Times that President Bush's re-election campaign is on a bumpy portion of the ride.

To call them must-reads are to understate the non-negotiable essentiality of your reading them in full.

The highlights:

Dan Balz, veteran political reporter from the Washington Post: "Given the volatility of events, the amount of time before Election Day and hurdles Kerry must overcome, Bush has plenty of time to recover. His advisers said that they recognize the weakness in the president's current standing but that he is far more resilient politically than his detractors suggest. They also argue that in this climate, perceptions of Kerry will be just as important as perceptions of the incumbent, and they have poured tens of millions of dollars into television ads attacking Kerry as a politician lacking clear convictions." LINK

"Matthew Dowd, senior adviser for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said Bush occupies a unique position compared with former presidents. In past campaigns, Bush's predecessors have either been above 53 percent in approval by the time of the election and been reelected, or have been below 46 percent and been defeated."

"Douglas Sosnik, White House political director during Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign, told the Democratic Leadership Council meeting in Phoenix last week that an incumbent's eventual vote is linked more directly to his approval rating than to any other measure and thus serves as a leading indicator early in the race. Dowd, too, has said repeatedly that the president's eventual vote percentage will track closely with his approval rating."

"But Sosnik said yesterday that the extraordinary uncertainty that surrounds the campaign could render historical patterns moot. 'Perhaps we are in a new era in politics where the lessons of history no longer apply," he said in an e-mail message. 'Based on President Bush's current job approval rating, he had better hope so.'"

David Sanger, veteran international economics correspondent and North Korean nuclear program expert from the New York Times: "[F]or the first time, even some of the most loyal administration aides, who have regularly defended every twist in the Iraq strategy, are conceding that the president and his top advisers are stuck in what one of them called 'the perpetual debate' about whether to change strategy or soldier on. Mr. Bush's usually sunny campaign advisers make no effort to hide the depth of the problem." LINK

"But Mr. Dowd said that changing Mr. Bush's tone on the campaign trail was not an option. So with some modifications, Mr. Bush is following the script he and his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, drafted as the prisoner scandal emerged: He repeats his disgust with the abuses, then turns the subject immediately back to his broader goals in the war on terrorism, merging it with the action in Iraq. He did so again on Thursday in a West Virginia school gymnasium."

Both Balz and Sanger end their stories with a consideration of the right track/wrong track numbers, with Balz writing that the numbers are "hurting" the president and Sanger writing that they are reason for "alarm."

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

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