The Note: Bringing It Home




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Polls open in less than 24 hours


We have never covered a nicer group of people -- on both sides.

And we have never covered so many campaign workers -- senior and junior -- who are just positively desperate for the campaign to end.

(The press corps feels exactly the same way . . . )

In fact, on both sides, the talk for weeks has been a lot more about the battle ending, rather than about winning.

As for that "winning" thing --

Both sides can look at the public polling and see horserace numbers and internals that give them hope and optimism.

But the weekend polls tell us little beyond that President Bush is probably a little ahead nationally and under 50 but close to 50, but that perhaps John Kerry has more strength in the battlegrounds than nationally, which doesn't necessarily mean of course that he is ahead in enough battlegrounds to win, and so either man can prevail but it is close.

It's better to be a tick ahead if you're the incumbent, but Mr. Bush's placement is not a particularly comfortable place to be. But neither is Mr. Kerry's.

Reporters keep asking both sides if they think they will win, and if their private polls show them ahead, but the big eternal question of American presidential campaign journalism ("If a campaign had polling at the end showing it was losing, would it start to tell reporters that?") will remain unanswered for at least another four years.

In at least one state (and maybe more), Kerry can take heart from some early and absentee voting numbers. But his reliance on young and first-time voters should be -- for sane Democrats -- terrifying.

"I would much prefer our position than theirs," Bush strategist Matthew Dowd tells USA Today. "They would, too, if given truth serum."

Seems like an interesting test: someone hold Shrum down on the plane, and let's try it!!!!

Both candidates and both campaigns like to play down the prospect of overtime, even as they continue unprecedented preparations for that possibility.

What you need to know about Ohio (which, along with Florida, remains a hotbed of pre-election jockeying on the ballot watch front): in the last few hours, two federal judges, one Republican and one Democrat, stuck down Ohio's voter challenge statute.

The GOP will appeal.

So going into Election Day in Ohio, we don't know whether challengers and poll watchers will be allowed at the polls, except for DOJ monitors.

Now then: $600 million worth of ads, well over a billion dollars raised and spent, hundreds of millions of dollars of GOTV efforts, 39 states visited -- and today, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are separated by only three blocks and one hour in Milwaukee, WI. "Battle in Brewtown. Clash in Cream City. Milwaukee: the final conflict," leads the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. LINK

In the days before the 2000 election then-Gov. Bush made a show of not campaigning extensively in the final days, portraying himself as above the fray despite his advisors' knowledge that the race was closer than they pronounced publicly.

No such story this time: Bush has seven events today, and combined with Kerry, Cheney, and Edwards, the four principals combine for 22 events in 13 states, beginning at 4:00 am ET and not ending until after Election Day begins.

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