Focused and Pensive, Not Peevish or Irritated

Bob Novak writes, "With two more debates and a month to go before the election, Bush has serious problems to solve." LINK

BC04 campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel told ABC News' Karen Travers that the campaign has always expected a close race.

"Since day 1 we have indicated it would be a close race," Stanzel said. "We're working hard in all the battleground states, turning out every Bush supporter. The average of the national polls shows a four percent lead for the president."

"There's a natural tightening of the polls as we get closer to election day," Stanzel said. "The Democrats' convention was not successful — they didn't lay out a vision and we did and that contributed to some increase [in poll number]. I think over the next 30 days we'll see the polls close."

ABC News' The Note loves the phrase "natural tightening" more than any other single thing in politics, just so you know.

The Wall Street Journal 's Schlesinger and Calmes calmly wrap the state of the post-debate race, proclaiming that "the vice-presidential debate suddenly has higher stakes," and report that the Kerry campaign's ad buy this week cost a whopping $8 million, "larger than any previous week's ad buy by the Democratic nominee." LINK

USA Today 's Jill Lawrence writes, "Kerry's new thrust is that Americans are 'paying the price' for Bush's wrong choices on Iraq and the economy." LINK

Over the weekend, two of the nation's top political reporters weighed in with race assessments:

"Senator John Kerry's aides are moving to shift the battle with President Bush to what they said was stronger ground — domestic policy — as the two men head into a second debate that is expected to focus on the economy, job creation and health care," reports the New York Times ' Adam Nagourney. LINK

"Thursday's debate produced a dramatic psychological shift in the presidential race, but strategists said it is less clear how much impact the 90-minute encounter would have on a lead that Bush has enjoyed since his convention in New York a month ago," writes the Washington Post 's Dan Balz. LINK

In their you-are-there week-that-was, which includes a look inside the Bush hold, Newsweek's Howard Fineman and Company make a metaphor over how the campaigns spent the night before and the night of the debate. LINK

The Washington Post 's Howie Kurtz casts a keen eye on how influential polls — and a tight race — are on political journalism. LINK

"'The polls drive media coverage,' says Roger Simon, chief political correspondent of U.S. News & World Report and part of the media invasion in Coral Gables. 'It controls the language. All of a sudden there's a front-runner and there's a challenger,' and Kerry had been depicted as being "in a hole. He's trying to make up lost ground. He must close the gap. He must come from behind. It's voodoo news.'"

The New York Times ' Jim Rutenberg takes a great look at the evolution of perception about a candidates and post-debate spin, which is a part of debate prep nearly as important — and some would argue more so — than making sure the candidate is on his toes. LINK

Don't miss the end, where Nicolle Devenish plays political pundit and media analyst!!!!

The Washington Post 's Richard Morin looks at the "Security Mom" demographic, a "cleverly named and totally bogus groups of swing voters." . LINK

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