And the consensus of the television and USA Today coverage is: the president's numbers on national security are down (naturally) but his overall horserace standing against Kerry is up (naturally).
The poll seems to show that the Bush campaign ads are working in the 17 battleground states to drive down the fav/unfavs of the Senator from Massachusetts. LINK
Susan Page of USA Today writes, "In a survey taken in mid-February, Kerry led Bush by 28 percentage points in those [17 battleground] states, 63% to 35%. Now Bush leads Kerry in them by six points, 51% to 45%." Note: the margin of error is +/-3%. LINK
Ontheotherhand, as Richard Benedetto of USA Today points out, "Although a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll finds that 53% believe the Bush administration is 'covering up something' about its handling of intelligence before 9/11, 67% say it could not have prevented the attacks. But 54% say Bush still could have done more beforehand." Kind of, sort of score one for Shrum! LINK
Another key line, "The split — 44% believe Clarke and 46% back the Bush administration — is largely along party lines: 76% of Democrats side with Clarke, and 83% of Republicans with Bush."
On those ads, the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny — armed with, apparently, several remote controls — riffs off of a day of television watching, pre "Wacky."
"While both candidates opened the campaign trying to bolster their supporters, their commercials to reach swing voters often appear on the same programs. Republicans and Democrats advertised heavily on local news programming, network morning shows and highly rated programs such as 'Dr. Phil,' 'Wheel of Fortune' and 'Law and Order.'" LINK
"One set of commercials features the president sitting with First Lady Laura Bush in the White House, talking about 'steady leadership in times of change.' Another set shows Kerry, with black-and-white images from his service in Vietnam, promising 'a new direction for America.'"
"The campaign ads, steeped in seriousness (sic), are aired in succession with pitches for common, household goods. A day of television viewing in St. Louis found the political spots sandwiched between ads for an improved blend of prune juice, a new lawnmower and countless offers for low mortgage rates or discount aluminum siding."
" … viewers of shows as varied as "American Idol" and "America's Most Wanted" have seen a campaign ad from Bush, but not Kerry. At the same time, Democratic commercials criticizing the Bush have appeared on shows ranging from 'The Simpsons' to 'Judge Judy.'"
Today, Sen. Kerry will flesh out his gas price proposal, unveiling a plan to lower gas prices by pledging to pressure OPEC to open oil supplies, temporarily suspending filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, streamlining national and state fuel regulations and policies, and promising open energy meetings aimed at a goal of 20 percent renewable U.S. energy by the year 2020.
ABC News' Dan Harris reports that "The Kerry people smell blood here, knowing that sitting presidents often get blamed for high gas costs. They are furious and frustrated about Bush's (seemingly successful) attempts to blur the issue by airing attack ads accusing Kerry of wanting to hike the gas tax by 50-cents — which they call misleading. They will go after Cheney pretty hard today on his secret energy task force meetings and his (and Bush's) ties to the oil industry." See our section below for more.