The Note: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World




Morning Show Wrap

Evening Newscasts Wrap

20 days until Election Day

Today is the third presidential debate


Tomorrow morning, only three things will matter to employed political strategists of every stripe and strata:

1) The status of those pesky movables (independent and undecided voters) in the instant and overnight polls; and

2) how relatively fired up the bases are; and

3) whether or not their respective campaigns have in place the manpower, supply lines, and air cover for the pitched battle to come.

Tonight, when the cardinal of the CBS press corps says "good night"...

The — game — is — on.

Each side must be ready to rumble.

Or, as a seasoned veteran of the bloodiest celluloid war would tell you...

It is time to go to the mattresses.

Unless one candidate wins decisively in a debate whose stakes cannot be overstated (even in a politico-media culture prone to hyper hyperbole), this race is likely going to be settled by just eight states.

In fact, "eight" might be overstating it.

If you don't have the eight memorized, you should stop reading The Note until you do.

(They are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Nevada, and New Hampshire.)

Now that you are done with that keyest thing, to help you get ready for tonight, we've prepared an exercise: our patent-pending Notelibs.

Submit answers to:

The headline Karl Rove wants to see Thursday morning: _________

The headline Mary Beth Cahill wants to see Thursday morning:__________

The headline Michael Whouley wants to see Thursday morning:_____________

The headline Laura Bush wants to see Thursday morning:__________________

______________ (state name(s)) will fully drop off John Kerry's target list after tonight's debate.

Position John Kerry takes tonight that "shatters his credibility," according to the Bush campaign:____________

Either John Kerry or George Bush will concede the election on _____ (month) _____ (day)

Saturday Night Live will lampoon George Bush's _______________ (characteristic) this weekend.

Achieving success in Iraq is ________ (adjective).

Karen Hughes, Ken Mehlman, Karl Rove, and Ed Gillespie will give each other __________ (body actions) as they bound into the debate room twenty minutes before the debate ends to win the initial body language spin contest.

Re: Bob Novak's reporting that suggests the Bush Administration will conclude early next year that the best course of action in Iraq is a phased pull out. It's ____________ (predicate noun indicating relative degree of truthfulness).

________ (election super lawyer) will be a household name before December. (Note: Ben Ginsberg is ALREADY a household name…)

John Kerry would strike pre-emptively if the U.S. action _____________ (specify condition).

The United Nations is a force for ________(noun) in the world.

George Bush will make ____________ (number) different facial expressions tonight.

John Kerry will _____________ (verb) his message tonight.

ABC News debate tracking poll finds ___________ (presidential candidates' name who relates best to the American people) won the debate by _________ (percent).

Campaign reporters will say "_________________ (name) showed exuberance and enthusiasm at tonight's post-debate rally."

_______________ (debate location) had the best Anheuser Busch press grub tent center. (Note hint: Tempe is going to have to really shine to beat St. Louis….)

President Bush will explain the state of the economy as ____________ (adjective).

_________________ (Nicolle Devenish or Stephanie Cutter) is walking around Tempe with the most confidence this morning.

_____________________ (Judd Gregg or Greg Craig) did the best role-playing of this debate prep season.

Voters will feel most comfortable with John Kerry's plan for _________________ (domestic policy subject) after tonight's debate.

________ is the handsomest campaign staffer in the land.

So at 9:00 pm ET at Arizona State University, the domestic policy debate, which will include questions on homeland security, will be moderated by CBS' Bob Schieffer and will last 90 minutes.

The debate will go up against Fox's split coverage of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees (which 77 percent of the country will see) and Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals (which 23 percent of the country will see). Fox's baseball coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET. LINK

President Bush, who is already in Arizona, debates Kerry at 9 pm and holds a rally afterwards at 10:50 pm at Bank One Ball Park in Phoenix, AZ. Bush RONs in Phoenix, AZ.

Those of you on the East Coast should know — Tempe is three hours behind you at this time of year — by the clock, not in terms of the latest hair coloring and tattoo technology, on which it is WAY ahead.

The world will probably see a pre-debate, pre-evening news photo op from Kerry, and at least some new TV ads. Candidate walk-throughs, per the 2004 norm, will be closed press.

Vice President Cheney, accompanied by his wife, holds an 11:00 am town hall meeting at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, he holds a 2:00 pm rally in Saxonburg, PA and he attends a debate watch party at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Corapolis, PA starting at 8:15 pm.

Sen. John Kerry starts the day in Santa Fe, NM, where he has been preparing for tonight's debate, and departs Albuquerque, NM at 12:15 pm. He arrives at Phoenix International Airport in time for a 1:45 pm ET open press rally. Following tonight's face-off with Bush, Kerry holds an 11 pm rally at Tempe Beach Park in Tempe, AZ. Kerry RONs in Las Vegas, NV.

Sen. John Edwards, coming off a Tuesday appearance on Leno in which he poked fun at the presidential pom-poms, holds a 1:15 pm town hall meeting in Medford, OR, a 4:45 pm rally in Eugene, OR and a 8 pm rally in Portland, OR.

At 5 pm, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe and Kerry communications czar Joe Lockhart brief reporters on the Kerry campaign's plans to mobilize Latino voters in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado as part of a Southwest strategy.

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who was excluded from this year's presidential debate because he did not meet the threshold level of support required by the Commission on Presidential Debates, appears on David Letterman's show at 11:30 pm.

Looking ahead to one Thursday event that is already making headlines: "President Bush and 25,000 AARP members will be in Las Vegas at the same time this week, but the Republican incumbent won't drop in on the organization that gave a boost to last year's Medicare prescription drug law," the AP reports. "The Bush campaign said it is dispatching first lady Laura Bush." LINK

Kerry will address the AARP at the Las Vegas Venetian Hotel at 2:30 pm ET tomorrow. LINK

Finally — and quick!!! — which presidential campaign knows more about another upcoming, politically potent New York Times Magazine story for this weekend that is already on the street????

ABC News Vote 2004: the Tempest in Tempe: Schieffer speaks:

On CBS "Early Show," Bob Schieffer said he had come up with the questions and recalled the commission told him "not to even tell them [the commission] what the questions are. 'We want this to be domestic policy. You find the areas,'" he recalled their telling him. Schieffer added that he hasn't even told his wife what the final questions are going to be.

Asked if "the future of the republic depends" on tonight's debate, Schieffer, with his understated drawl, said, "Now let's put this in some perspective."

As to whether he felt any pressure, Schieffer said "I may be the umpire at the World Series but the pressure is on these two men."

Schieffer said he is excited because the country has "finally taken this campaign off of the TV commercials and put it on a stage where you can have an intelligent discussion."

He then recounted how 20 people approached him in the airport suggesting questions and urging him to be "tough on them."

Read more in the Morning Show Wrap

ABC News Vote 2004: the Tempest in Tempe:

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney previews the third and last presidential debate, rounding up the stakes and recapping the first two rounds, while conveying a sense of both Bush and Kerry's message strategy not only tonight but for the last three weeks of the campaign. LINK

Note it: this is a must read.

Ditto for the comparable piece by Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, who beautifully sets the stage. LINK

"Whenever possible, Bush hopes to broaden the face-off in Tempe, Ariz., from disputes over specifics — such as healthcare or education — to frame the election as a starkly ideological choice between limiting or expanding government, said a senior Republican strategist familiar with White House planning."

"Kerry, as signaled by his dismissive rejection of political "labels" at Friday's debate, aims to blur ideological distinctions and focus as concretely as possible on his individual proposals."

"Bush's goal, in short, is to aggregate the choice voters face into a single referendum on government's size and scope, while Kerry wants to separate the debate into sparring over his ideas — and Bush's record — on key domestic issues."

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh explains how the Tempest in Tempe makes today possibly the most important day in this election cycle. LINK

Attention President Bush and Sen. Kerry: No pressure, though.

The Wall Street Journal's Jake Schlesinger and Shailagh Murray look at the different economic worldviews of Kerry and Bush, and take a detailed and must-read look at what the candidates might say during the debate, from taxes and health care to trade, outsourcing, Social Security, and the deficit. LINK

Kit Seelye of the New York Times looks at how the candidates aim to grab the attention of accidental viewers during the debates — not to mention during a debate opposite the Yankees and Red Sox. LINK

USA Today's Bill Nichols writes that "both men face enormous pressure in their last face-to-face opportunity to change the dynamic of a close race." LINK

USA Today maps out domestic issue talking points for both candidates. LINK

Knight Ridder's Thomma and Douglas offer, "The audience for their third and final debate Wednesday night is likely to be in the tens of millions, many of them swing voters who haven't committed to either major party candidate." LINK

In advance of an expected mention of environmental issues Wednesday night, Knight Ridder's Seth Borenstein writes, "On Bush's watch, America's environment deteriorated in many critical areas - including the quality of air in cities and the quality of water that people drink - and gained in very few." LINK

"Mastering the art of staying with your message while deflecting the questions from reporters and interviewers that could put you on the defensive is an essential part of winning debates and, ultimately, of winning elections," writes Joel Benenson on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

We love the lead of the Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman debate preview so much, we're just copying and pasting it right here: "Tonight marks the final story in the Bush-Kerry debate trilogy, otherwise known as 'Episode III: Attack of the L word.'" LINK

Thomas M. DeFrank quotes "a top Bush adviser (who) said on the eve of the third face-to-face joust between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry" who said of the role Iraq will play in tonight's domestic debate, "There's no way to ignore it even if you're supposed to." LINK

The Washington Times predicts "President Bush will paint John Kerry as a liberal outside the American mainstream at tonight's final debate on domestic issues, confident that the focus on topics traditionally helpful to Democrats can be turned to his advantage." LINK

The Orlando Sentinel's Jim Stratton looks at how important the debates are to undecided voters. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Tempest in Tempe: local press:

ASU's State Press reports that ASU professors are predicting a Kerry win tonight. LINK

The Arizona Republic prepares its readers for tonight being an all-out brawl. No playing Mr. Nice Guy anymore. LINK

While President Bush was warming up his best material at a Paradise Valley, Ariz., fundraiser last night (LINK), Sen. Kerry stayed in New Mexico earning this Arizona Republic headline in what is less and less a battleground in the eyes of some: "Kerry stalls Phoenix arrival as he prepares in Santa Fe." LINK

However, the Arizona Republic's Jon Kamman Notes a poll conducted by the Social Research Laboratory at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff showing Sen. Kerry only 5 points behind the President there. LINK

Marty Sauerzopf, also of the Arizona Republic, reports that "charisma, confidence and presence" are where it's at tonight. LINK

Folks in Tempe are feeling the impending pressure of two motorcades in one town. LINK

The Arizona Republic Notes the excitement building on the ASU campus. LINK

For those who aren't too cool for school, this is what the State Press deems the:

Places to be: LINK

The numbers to know: LINK

And the place to see: LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Tempest in Tempe: checking the facts:

The Wall Street Journal offers a useful look at how Bush and Kerry's statements stack up against the actual job numbers.

The story points out that economists say it is "misleading" when Bush points to a low unemployment rate of 5.4 percent because "the work force has gotten smaller as discouraged workers give up finding new jobs."

"The labor-force participation rate is near a 15-year low point; in September, it fell slightly to 65.9% — down from a high of 67.3% and around the same level for the last year. In fact, if the participation rate had held at the higher level, the unemployment rate would be closer to 7.2%, according to ISI Group's Tom Gallagher."

Kerry is chided for overstating the job loss numbers by leaving out the growth of public sector jobs.

Knight Ridder's James Kuhnhenn does a preemptive fact check. MORE

ABC News Vote 2004: the Tempest in Tempe: op-eds and editorials:

The Washington Post ed board weighs in on what they would like asked in tonight's debate. LINK

Robert Samuelson says the poverty issue that needs to be debated is immigration. LINK

Harold Meyerson on labels that don't stick. LINK

The New York Times op-ed page once again offers up questions for Bush: LINK and questions for Kerry: LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Tempest in Tempe: go (____________________) baseball team!:

Of course, the Boston Globe has a Sox v. debate viewership story. Donovan Slack points out the dilemma for the Kerry/Sox constituents: "There may never be a starker choice in a city with two equally fundamental obsessions, politics and baseball." LINK

Just look at the decisions these Bostonians have to make: "'God is a Red Sox fan,' Sister Carolyn Darr, the superior of the Episcopal religious order, said about the difficulty of weighing the merits of each. 'But I think he's a Kerry fan, too.'"

The Note wonders how much the Senator from Massachusetts would rather be watching the Sox tonight, and what the ratings will be.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

You can almost taste the impending negative tone in the air … or is it already here? Anne Kornblut of the Boston Globe looks at the step-up in attacks as election day grows near. LINK

She has a lot on the President's rhetoric, and tucks the battleground state list in at the end. Anne is, simply put, a superstar of the cycle.

The Chicago Tribune's Zeleny and McCormick have an absolute must-read over the battle for the Midwest, including some polling numbers. LINK

The Washington Post's David Broder counsels that it is time for Bush and Kerry to level with the public and admit that there is no free lunch — neither in Iraq or with regard to the imbalance between federal spending and revenue. LINK

The New York Times' Robert Pear assesses the costs of the domestic plans — particularly tax cuts and health care — proposed by Bush and Kerry, and runs the numbers estimated by the Concord Coalition, concluding that the President would cut more taxes and introduce fewer spending programs. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Zaslow writes that undecided voters are hardly unhappy about the attention being lavished on them.

Rockin' John Harwood of Dow Jones tries to figure out whether or not the "bandwagon effect" of outside groups and rock stars will make any difference on Nov. 2. Could New Jersey be the Republicans' secret weapon? The October surprise, if you will? The Boston Globe's Robertson explores the idea. LINK

"More than 1,200 California public schools — despite steadily improved test scores over the last two years — face the threat of federal sanctions under the No Child Left Behind law, a Times computer analysis showed," reports the Los Angeles Times in a front page report that could perhaps creep into tonight's debate. LINK

Or perhaps a recent study conducted by an environmental group which finds the Bush Administration far more lax in suing polluters than the previous administration will find its way into the program this evening. LINK

The Los Angeles Times explores the unprecedented mobilization of union members heading to key battleground states to try to help deliver a victory for John Kerry. LINK

USA Today's Mark Memmott reports on the latest findings of the Wisconsin Advertising Project. Click here to find out which ten states matter on the airwaves. LINK and LINK


On the road with the President on Tuesday, the New York Times' Dick Stevenson sees a new line of attack for tonight's debate by President Bush on Sen. Kerry's health care plan. Key to his criticism: calling Kerry's health care plan a government-run program. LINK

In advance of the final presidential debate tomorrow that will focus on domestic issues, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign has released two new ads critical of said plan. The ads, "Complicated Plan" and "Your Doctor," echo the campaign's message that John Kerry's health care plan will empower Washington, not doctors and is a "$1.5 trillion big government health care takeover."

Over the last week, the BC04 campaign has strongly criticized Kerry's health care plan — President Bush has said several times this month that Kerry was putting the country on the path to "Hillarycare"

A sample of the President's stump rhetoric on Kerry's health care plan, from Oct. 7 — "And you know something, when the government pays the bills, it makes the rules. His plan would put bureaucrats in charge of dictating coverage, which could ration your care and limit your choice of doctors. What I'm telling you is, he's putting us on the path to Hillarycare."

The ads will run on national cable and in local markets in battleground states — and you can view them at

The campaign released a similar ad on Kerry's health care plan on Sept. 13, "Healthcare: Practical v. Big Government," but that ad also focused on the President's agenda.

Script For "Complicated Plan"

Voice Over:

John Kerry and liberals in Congress have a health care plan for you.

A big-government take over.

1.5 trillion dollars.

Rationing. Less access. Fewer choices. Long waits.

And Washington bureaucrats, not your doctor... make final decisions on your health.

So if you need treatment... all you have to do is...

You get the picture...

John Kerry and liberals in Congress. Big government-run healthcare.

President Bush:

I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.

Script For "Your Doctor"

Voice Over:

John Kerry and liberals in Congress have a health care plan.

It includes the IRS, Treasury Department, and several massive new government agencies.

Your doctor?

In here somewhere...

But not in charge.

This 1.5 trillion dollar government program puts bureaucrats, not your doctor... in charge of your health care decisions.

One more reason we can't risk the liberals in Congress and John Kerry.

President Bush:

I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.

Driving home the health care message, Tim Adams, the Bush campaign's policy director, defends Bush's health care plan in a USA Today editorial. LINK

The New York Times' Ralph Blumenthal looks at the sharp divisions in Bush's hometown of Crawford, Texas. LINK

The New York Times' Michael Janofsky reports that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has written a draft report slamming President Bush's performance on civil rights — which appeared on the Internet before it was finished being researched and written, and before its members were able to challenge and vote on it. LINK

The Commission is NOT President Bush's favorite body, we feel it is safe to say.

Cheney said Tuesday that under Saddam Hussein Iraq "could have served as a source of weapons for terrorists," AP reports. LINK

Cheney also used a different explanation for linking Saddam to Al Qaeda, citing George Tenet's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Oct. 2002 that there "had in fact been a 10-year relationship between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government," Cheney said.

"Not so fast," says the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, who was on the road with the Veep.

The Milbank-Farhi story in the Washington Post includes this bit of fact-checking on Cheney: "In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year, former CIA chief Tenet cited several 'high-level contacts' over a decade, but he also said that the agency reported they never led to any cooperative activity." LINK

A Cornell sociologist says he has found scientific evidence that, whenever the government issues a terrorism alert, President Bush's approval ratings go up, even on domestic issues, such as his handling of the economy," the Washington Post's Al Kamen reports. LINK

Lou Sheldon tells the Los Angeles Times that President Bush's invocation of the Dred Scot decision in the last debate brought the issue of abortion from the "back to the front burner." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

The AP reports that President Clinton will "record radio advertisements, but his slow recovery from heart surgery is making it questionable whether he'll be able to make any campaign appearances. Democrats who have spoken to Clinton say he is eager to get more involved, but his doctors and his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, are not sure he is strong enough to travel five weeks after he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery." LINK

"Tuesday, late-night audiences saw a candidate who questioned President Bush's manliness. Even the audience seemed surprised," writes the Los Angeles Times' Maria La Ganga of John Edwards' visit with Jay Leno. LINK

Sure it was on the West Coast, but imagine the press reaction if Bush or Cheney had done such a thing...

The Boston Globe's Pat Healy Notes the GOP attack on Sen. Edwards' John-Kerry's-policies-will-make-paralyzed-people-walk-again comment yesterday. LINK

The Santa Fe New Mexican's Steve Terrell leads with Kerry's mid-afternoon bike ride before getting into his debate prep story, but buries the news of Gene Sperling's purchase of "dinosaur bones." LINK

Donald Lambro previews the issues of tonight's debate with a critical look at the KE'04 tax plan. "John Kerry promised in the second presidential debate not to raise taxes on people making less than $200,000 a year, but critics of his revenue-raising plan said yesterday that it would hit people who earn less and further complicate the income tax code." LINK

The Denver Post reports of John Edward's fourth trip to Colorado that the North Carolina Senator "unleashed a greatest-hits set of attacks against President Bush on Tuesday." Before a crowd of about 1,700 students and supporters in the Adams City High School field house, Edwards "lambasted Bush on everything from the economy to energy and told the crowd that Bush is out of touch with America and its challenges," reports John Ingold. "The problem is, if you don't see a problem, you can't fix it," Edwards said. "... John Kerry sees the problem, and he has a plan to make things better in America." LINK

The Washington Post's VandeHei and Russakoff look at Kerry's management style and his penchant for getting bogged down in indecision by wanting too much information. LINK

James Dao of the New York Times takes a closer look at West Virginia, and the lessons that Kerry learned from the Gore campaign — leading him to pay more attention to the state and try to lock it down in his column early, rather than leaving it until the last minute. LINK

Which doesn't mean that it has worked!!!

Liberal religious groups are criticizing Kerry for his attempts to reach out to African-American voters, accusing him of politicizing religion, reports the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick. LINK

The New York Times' Marion Burros takes a look at the kitchen stylings of Teresa Heinz Kerry in the Dining section, and what her knowledge of and expression through cooking says about her. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

At 9:00 am ET today, the Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case brought by unions to require all verified provisional ballots be cast within proper counties to be judged acceptable.

Yesterday, Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood releases a draft proposal of a manual recount rule that would require counties to print out copies of all ballots cast in a machine and compare that to the total number of voters recorded by the machine. It was rejected by some advocates because they say that the proposal does not allow for the under vote disparity to be remedied nor does it render an image of the electronic ballot as cast by individual voters.

"Black leaders in Florida are charging that GOP officials are using the law to keep black people off the rolls and hinder them from voting," the Washington Post reports. LINK

"In Duval County, 31,155 black voters had been added to the rolls by the end of last week. That is more than the total number of ballots nullified here four years ago, in a race that George W. Bush won by 537 votes. But hundreds more could show up at the polls only to find they cannot vote. The office has flagged 1,448 registrations as incomplete, and as of last week had yet to process 11,500 more. A Washington Post analysis found nearly three times the number of flagged Democratic registrations as Republican. Broken down by race, no group had more flagged registrations than blacks."

More lawsuits against Hood:

"A coalition of unions sued Secretary of State Glenda Hood and elections officials from five counties Tuesday, arguing that thousands of voters have been disenfranchised by the rejection of their voter-registration forms. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Miami, is similar to one filed by state Democrats last week. It accuses Hood of violating federal law for telling the 67 elections supervisors that they should reject incomplete voter-registration forms." LINK

Alma Gonzales led a coalition of groups yesterday in a meeting with Hood and her counsel, Richard Perez about manual recounts. LINK

"Under Perez' draft proposal, the state suggests that election workers scan through ballot images to count the number of ballots in which no candidate was chosen, known as 'under votes.' But the state plan doesn't suggest what to do if election workers and the touch-screen machines come up with a different number of under votes." LINK

"Critics, however, say such technology is still inferior to requiring the machines to create a verifiable paper trail because the ballot images reflect only what is in the machine's memory, not the voter's intent," the St. Pete Times reports.

Tom Zeller of the New York Times looks at the mix of voting systems in Pennsylvania that should wake people up with fear in the night should it come to a recount there. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Christopher Conkey takes a look at some of the unorthodox polling places that some states, including six battlegrounds, are setting up in airports, shopping malls, banks, and casinos in an effort to encourage people to vote.

"The chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission said yesterday that federal law doesn't tell states how to count provisional ballots, which is consistent with Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's position on the controversial issue in the Nov. 2 election," reports the Columbus Dispatch. LINK

We await Judge Carr's ruling on whether a precinct (as Blackwell believes) or a county (as his critics believe) is the voter's "jurisdiction" in Ohio.

The Mayor of Milwaukee fears he doesn't have enough ballots for election day and blames the county executive for the possible short supply. LINK

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel takes a look at how Wisconsin legal teams are staffing up for election day. LINK

"Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann said he hopes to assign 40 prosecutors to monitor voting sites in the city of Milwaukee on election day. The top lawyer for the John Kerry campaign in Wisconsin said hundreds of Democratic lawyers will be at polling sites around the state. And two other groups said they hope to recruit hundreds of non-lawyers to monitor the voting, primarily in Milwaukee."

"The state Republican Party wasn't ready to disclose its plans. But asked about the Kerry campaign's lawyers, GOP spokesman Chris Lato said: 'I think that we need to consider our options here. We need to be prepared for a real mess on our hands Nov. 2.'"

ABC News Vote 2004: the Big Four battlegrounds: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin:

Where should you vacation in Florida if you want to avoid campaign commercials? Not Miami, Tampa or Orlando. LINK

Barbara Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry both stumped in Florida. LINK

Nearly 2,000 people who believe they have registered to vote actually have not," reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. LINK

The Cleveland Plain Dealer also has the latest Cuyahoga County registration totals. LINK

"Massive voter-registration campaigns by independent political groups have helped to enlist more than 160,000 new registered voters in Cuyahoga County this year, pushing the county's official voter rolls over 1 million."

"The number of new voters added to the county rolls is five times greater than the number of new voters who registered before the 2000 election."

Ed Koch hit the campaign trail in Cleveland on President Bush's behalf, reports the Plain Dealer. LINK

"Democrats concede their dreams of retaking the White House will end early on Nov. 2 if they fail to capture the state's 21 electoral votes," writes the Los Angeles Times' James Rainey of the battleground that is the Keystone State. LINK

Maggie Haberman and Kenneth Bazinet and Helen Kennedy think President Bush "appears to be conceding some ground in the hard-fought battleground of Pennsylvania, as the 2004 race, which has been fought in only a small number of states, narrows even further." According to advisors, he's not expected to return soon to the state that has beckoned his record setting 39 visits. LINK


Dante Scala's latest take on New Hampshire:

"If the President continues to perform weaker than nationally in the Granite State, how well might he have to do nationally in order to carry the state in three weeks? Let's take a quick look at the math and then call it a night; Debate Three (and Game Two) await in just hours, after all." LINK

"Currently Bush is polling two points below his national poll standing in New Hampshire (see below post). Let's assume this pattern remains static through Election Day, and Bush does two percentage points worse in New Hampshire's popular vote than he does in the national popular vote."

"Let's further assume that 1.5 percent of the popular vote in NH goes to Ralph Nader and minor-party candidates. (Currently Nader polls at 1 percent here.) That leaves 98.5 percent, and thus Bush or Kerry would have to win 49.3 percent of the vote here to carry New Hampshire and its four electoral votes."

"Thus, if Bush needs 49.3 percent to carry New Hampshire; and he continues to run two points weaker here than he does nationally; then he would have to win a little more than 51 percent of the nation's popular vote to take the Granite State."

"But if the President wins 51 percent of the national popular vote, of course, he has no need to worry about New Hampshire. In fact, the Granite State apparently becomes vital to his re-election only if he cannot manage to win 50 percent plus one of the national popular vote. But there is the President's Catch-22: if he cannot carry a simple majority of the national popular vote, then he will not do well enough here to stop Kerry from taking away New Hampshire, if the current pattern prevails."

With the count ongoing, "more than 300,000 new voters to the Colorado rolls this year" reports the Denver Post. LINK

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jo Mannies reports that the Bush-Cheney campaign has officially stopped running ads in the Show Me state as of today and Notes "The DNC ended its ad buys in the state several weeks ago; Sen. John Kerry's campaign hasn't run ads in the state since July." LINK

Jim Morrill reports on the effort of North Carolina Senate candidates to take credit for this week's tobacco buyout: LINK

The debate heats up in Oregon on a ballot measure restricting medical malpractice lawsuits, James Mayer of the Oregonian reports. LINK

More ballot woes in Iowa: Lynn Campbell of the Des Moines Register reports on hundreds of voter registrations being rejected. LINK

Leigh Strope of the Kennebec Journal files this report on both candidate's job plans. The bottom line: both cost a lot of money, and both are flawed. LINK

George P. Bush kicks off his own stump sweep in Nevada for his famous uncle of the nearly same name. LINK

Iowa seniors want cheaper drugs, and they want them now. Jane Norman of the Register reports. LINK

It's crunch time, and West Virginia voter registration lines aren't getting any shorter. Dave Gustafson of the Charlestown Gazette is on the scene. LINK

John Kerry gets a pick up from 2000 by scoring the Albuquerque Tribune endorsement. LINK

"Bush, whom The Tribune endorsed in 2000, has offered simplistic slogans to complex problems, while Kerry sees complicated problems and offers the promise of appropriate solutions — complex or not."

"The reality is the world is not a simple place, seldom black or white, and Kerry knows that intuitively. He understands the gray, the nuance - and that easy-bake solutions like nuclear weapons, Navy carriers and conservative or liberal platitudes usually don't apply or work."


The Columbus Dispatch reports a federal judge yesterday denied Ralph Nader's bid for the Ohio presidential ballot saying had "unclean hands" — which is an English common law phrase. Alan Johnson writes, "Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr., of U.S. District Court in Columbus, said widespread fraud by paid circulators working for Nader's campaign took precedence over the candidate's argument that Ohio law is unconstitutional in requiring that people who gather signatures on a nominating petition must be residents and registered to vote in the state." LINK

Nader has a last shot in Ohio — a lawsuit is pending at the Ohio Supreme Court that seeks to get his name on the ballot.

Ralph Nader continues his push for write in votes in California, campaigning in Sacramento and San Diego "They will never give you a standard by which they will concede failure, it's just full-speed ahead," Nader said. "If you vote for the lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil." LINK

He is promoting his new website,

Tom Infield of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, "Ralph Nader's month-long struggle to remain a presidential candidate in Pennsylvania is expected to come to a head today with a court ruling that is likely to strip his name from the ballot."

Foreshadowing that decision, Infield writes, "One of several judges involved in the case gave a possible hint of the court's decision yesterday when he wrote that he had never seen so much fraudulent or improper behavior from a candidate for any ballot position. If the ruling goes against Nader, he is expected to appeal." LINK


The Washington Post's John F. Harris looks at the effort to persuade Viacom's MTV Networks to allow issue advocacy ads. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board argues that the furor over Sinclair Broadcast Group's airing of "Stolen Honor" is ridiculous, and that newspaper endorsements amount to the same kind of "in kind contribution" that Democrats are accusing Sinclair of.

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—9:00 am: Supreme Court of Florida hears arguments in AFL-CIO v. Hood

—10:30 am: Chris Heinz attends a GOTV Forum at Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA

—11:00 am: Vice President Cheney and Lynne Cheney participate in town hall meeting at Allegheny College, Meadville, PA

—11:00 am: Elizabeth Edwards attends a town hall meeting on senior health care costs at the Sea Dog Banquet and Conference Center, Bangor, ME

—11:00 am: Cate Edwards attends a town hall meeting at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

—11:00 am: Exhibit featuring original copy of the Declaration of Independence unveiled, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY

—11:45 am: New York State Attorney General Spitzer announces action to halt an attempt to profit from Sept. 11 terror attack, AG's office, New York, NY

—1:00 pm: Rep. John Conyers holds a hearing on the status of civil rights and liberties post-9/11

—1:00 pm: SAIS hosts, "Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US Administration," participants are Eliot Cohen, Francis Fukuyama, others, Washington, DC

—1:15 pm: Sen. John Edwards attends a town hall meeting at Medford's Veterans Memorial Armory, Medford, OR

—1:30 pm: Elizabeth Edwards attend a town hall meeting on women's issues at the University of Southern Maine, Lewistown-Auburn College, Lewiston, ME

—2:00 pm: Labor Secretary Elaine Chao inducts five people into the Labor Hall of Fame, Department of Labor, Washington, DC

—2:00 pm: Chris Heinz attends a town hall meeting at Widener College, Chester, PA

—2:30 pm: Vice President Cheney participates in a Victory 2004 rally at Penn's Colony, Saxonburg, PA

—3:30 pm: Cate Edwards holds a thank you event for volunteers at the Pitt County Democratic Headquarters, Greenville, NC

—4:30 pm: Georgetown University hosts a panel: "Why Should a Catholic Vote Republican … Democratic?"

—4:45 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a rally at the University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

—5:00 pm: Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe, and Kerry communications czar Joe Lockhart brief reporters on the Kerry-Edwards Southwest strategy, Arizona State University Memorial Union, Tempe, AZ

—6:30 pm: The World Affairs Council holds a town hall meeting on "Beginning the Dialogue: America's Troubled Relationship with the Islamic World" with ABC News' John Donvan, Georgetown's John Esposito, others, Washington, DC

—6:30 pm: Secretary of State Colin Powell gives keynote address at the SAIS 60th anniversary gala, Washington, DC

—8:00 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a rally at Pioneer Courthouse Park, Portland, OR

—8:00 pm: Elizabeth Edwards hosts a meet and greet with supporters at a debate watching party at the KE'04 New Hampshire headquarters, Manchester, NH

—8:00 pm: Cate Edwards attends a debate watch party at the North Carolina Democratic headquarters, Raleigh, NC

—8:00 pm: Chris Heinz attends a debate watch party at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

—8:15 pm: Vice President Cheney participates in a Victory 2004 Debate Watch party at the Embassy Suites Hotel, Corapolis, PA

—8:30 pm: Elizabeth Edwards watches the presidential debate with a Manchester family, Manchester, NH

—8:00 pm: Baseball coverage begins on Fox

—9:00 pm: President Bush and Sen. Kerry participate in a debate moderated by CBS' Bob Schieffer at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

—10:50 pm: President Bush makes remarks at a debate watch party, Phoenix, AZ

—11:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a rally at Tempe Beach Park, Tempe, AZ

—11:30 pm: Ralph Nader appears on CBS' "Late Night with David Letterman"