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Convention Wrap

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AP
CONVENTION WRAP 09-01-04

Dotty Lynch, Beth Lester, Clothilde Ewing, Lauren Glasser and Allen Alter from the CBS News Political and Campaign '04 Units have the latest political news from Washington and from the trail:



Wednesday's Headlines
  • Game Time For Cheney
  • From The White House
  • Kerry Campaign (Sort Of) Shakes Up
  • Nantucket To Nashville
  • Edwards On The Porch
  • Counting Debates
  • And In Florida

    Game Time: On Monday and Tuesday, Republicans appealed to the moderates and swing voters with Republican superstars Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger. On Wednesday, however, they make nice with the conservatives and give them Zell Miller and Dick Cheney.

    According to The New York Times, the two men have two important things in common: both appeal to the party's conservative base and neither has presidential aspirations, which "leaves them free to deliver the red meat to the base without having to worry about preserving their own political viability."

    Miller, the senior Democratic Senator from Georgia, incidentally gave another convention keynote address in New York 12 years ago: for then-candidate Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention. Miller is now a Democrat for Bush.

    Cheney will be introduced by his wife, Lynne, who is expected to show the personal side of the man she's been married to for 40 years. Cheney, who has unfavorable ratings that leave much to be desired, has been surrounded by rumors that he would be replaced on the ticket. But with his atypical early presence at the convention and his name already nominated and accepted by the party, he is not going anywhere.

    The fact that he will not budge should give people like Alan Keyes, the Republican candidate for the Illinois Senate, pause before they decide to go on the attack. Keyes's opponent, the Obama for Illinois campaign, passed along a report that Alan Keyes went after Cheney's daughter Mary on Tuesday, calling her a "selfish hedonist" because she is a lesbian. In an interview with Sirius Satellite Radio, Keyes insisted that the essence of family life is procreation and that if "we embrace homosexuality as a proper basis for marriage, we are saying that it's possible to have a marriage state that in principal excludes procreation and is based simply on the premise of selfish hedonism."

    Asked whether that meant Mary Cheney "is a selfish hedonist," Keyes said: "That goes by definition. Of course she is."

    Keyes clearly isn't following the party strategy of going after party moderates or swing voters.

    CBS News' Josh Gross is traveling with the vice president and gives insight into what Cheney is expected to talk about:

    Trail Byte: Tuesday was a day of rest and preparation for Vice President Cheney as he continued putting his speech together for Wednesday night.

    Expect the vice president to emphasize the opportunities each American is presented with in their daily lives. Something along the lines of: It is because we live in America, with all its freedoms, that these opportunities are possible.

    According to the campaign, he will specifically address the importance of public education and how the Bush administration has strived for excellence and accountability. He will spend time discussing the strength in the economy and a health care system that puts patients first.

    These are all topics the vice president uses in his speeches on the campaign trail, in some form or another. He often credits the quality of his own public school education with putting him on the path to success and will cite statistics from the state he is visiting to bolster his claims that the economy is turning around.

    In his speech Wednesday, he will tell the audience that, to preserve these opportunities, American must feel safe at home and around the world. He'll draw historical comparison between the war on terrorism and the tough choices the country had to make before World War II and during the Cold War.

    The vice president will also ask the country to examine the differences between the president and John Kerry. Voters need decide if they agree with him about the Mr. Bush's proven leadership and decisiveness or will choose Kerry, who has demonstrated confusing convictions during his term in the Senate and the campaign.

    From the White House to Elmhurst via Columbus: President Bush finally makes it to New York on Wednesday evening after a rally in Columbus, Ohio, but his first public appearance will not be in Manhattan but in Elmhurst, a blue collar neighborhood in the outer borough of Queens. He will visit with firefighters and other supporters and then goes to the Waldorf Hotel to watch Dick Cheney's speech. CBS News' Mark Knoller reports:

    Knoller Nugget: Before heading to New York, President Bush is at the White House rehearsing the convention speech he delivers Thursday night. The practice session takes place at a podium in the Family Theater in the East Wing of the White House.

    The president has already briefly addressed the convention, introducing the First Lady before her speech on Tuesday night. Mr. Bush spoke via satellite from a Republican softball game in North Middleton Township, Pa.

    He spoke lovingly of his wife, saying "my life has been better every day since that wonderful day Laura Welch said yes to me."

    "I'm a lucky man to have Laura at my side," he said. "And America would be fortunate to have her in the White House for four more years."

    On the way to NYC, candidate Bush makes yet another campaign stop in Ohio at a rally in Columbus. It's his 23rd visit to the state and his second in five days. He won Ohio four years ago but by only 3.5 percent of the vote. And since no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio, there is no state he's making a greater effort to win this year.

    Once in New York, the president will visit with firefighters and supporters at the Italian Charities of America offices in Elmhurst, Queens. It's a chance for Mr. Bush to pay tribute to some of the First Responders to the 9/11 attacks. But it's also a convention photo op. There'll be a live video feed to the convention. A spokesman says delegates "will see the president mixing and mingling."

    Can The War On Terrorism Be Won?

    In a "Today Show" interview on Monday, the president said he did not think the war on terrorism could be won. That remark triggered howls of derision from Democrats who smelled a verbal blunder.

    So Mr. Bush spent much of Tuesday back-pedaling from his ill-chosen words.

    In a speech to the American Legion National Convention, and later addressing farmers in Iowa, the president said a number of times that the U.S. is winning and will win the war on terrorism.

    "In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table. But make no mistake about it. We are winning and we will win." And he said victory would come because the U.S. will stay on the offensive.

    But he also said the U.S. and its allies will "work to change the conditions that give rise to terror: poverty and hopelessness and resentment."

    The White House hopes Mr. Bush's clarifications close the book on his gaffe.

    Kerry Shake-Up/Beef-Up: In a day where the Kerry campaign was technically laying low, talk of Kerry staff changes distracted political reporters otherwise focused on all things Republican.

    By the end of the day, Kerry folks tamped down the rumors of a major staff shake-up although it is clear that a number of Democrats were trying to send a message to the campaign that it needs to change. While all is not yet known, by Wednesday morning it seemed that no major heads will roll.

    Instead, the campaign announced officially what we have known for a week, namely, that former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart will begin traveling on the plane and dealing with the press. Another former Clinton official, Joel Johnson, will direct the campaign's rapid response war room and several new faces will amplify the DNC's role. Former Clinton aide Doug Sosnik will advise the campaign in a more official capacity and current DNC-Kerry liaison John Sasso (who the campaign says has a very influential role already) may play an even larger role. Campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill told CBS News that "there is no shakeup" but that Kerry is just taking up offers from a number of "highly qualified Democrats." What is clear that a rather rough August has prompted some rethinking of the campaign's strategic plays and players.

    The other major development out of Kerryville on Tuesday was the announcement of a major ad buy for the final two months of the campaign. The buy is worth $45 million and will run in 20 battleground states including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia and on national cable. And, should $45 million prove insufficient, according to the campaign, "the buy includes a significant contingency fund for the campaign to use strategically in additional advertising in the final 8 weeks of the campaign." The campaign is keeping the content under wraps for now.

    On Wednesday, Kerry himself will come out swinging, talking about what he sees as mistakes by the president on Iraq. The campaign says the tone of the speech, to be given in front of the American Legion, will hopefully spark an "exchange that will resonate" with voters, according to Kerry advisor Tad Devine. Camp Kerry says the Legionnaires may not appreciate his remarks but "Kerry feels he has to say what's on his mind."

    Kerry from Nantucket to Nashville: John Kerry is back on the road, leaving the sand and surf of New England behind. CBS News' Steve Chaggaris reports:

    Trail Byte: So much for not campaigning during your competitor's nominating convention.

    Kerry stormed into Nashville Tuesday night and was greeted by about 1,000 supporters at the airport where he wasted no time in sticking it to the Republicans.

    "Thank you for coming out in such amazing numbers," Kerry said. "You're here to prove that it ain't New York (where) things are going on, it's right here in Nashville!"

    "I thought maybe since I was in Nashville, and the importance to music and everything, I might get out my guitar and sing like I used to when I was in high school." he continued. "But I figured you all have suffered enough for the last four years."

    During the rally, Kerry seized on the national security theme, in an effort to combat the president's focus on the issue, and criticized Mr. Bush's comments earlier this week that he didn't think the war on terror was winnable.

    "All they're talking about is the war on terror, which the president yesterday said he doesn't think we can win," Kerry said. "Well, ladies and gentlemen let me tell you something. We can, we must and we will win the war on terror."

    Earlier, senior adviser Joe Lockhart told reporters, "When the president admits that he's not confident they can win the war on terror, that's what people in politics call a problem."

    Kerry's remarks were just a precursor to his speech to the American Legion Wednesday — the reason for his day-long diversion to Nashville. Following the speech, Kerry will return to Nantucket, where he has been vacationing since Sunday and where he'll stay until Thursday night when he heads to Ohio to kick off the final two months of his presidential campaign.

    John Edwards on the Porch: Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards is in the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday, attending a front porch event in Pittston and a rally in Wilkes-Barre. On Tuesday, he was in West Virginia, where 2000 VP candidate Joe Lieberman never even ventured. CBS News' Bonney Kapp was with Edwards:

    Trail Byte: John Edwards' conspicuous motorcade drove up hills and around bends to reach Dickie and Malinda Sue Todd's isolated home Tuesday in Beckley, W.Va. for a front porch visit.

    "I noticed when we were driving by, all those folks were looking like, 'What did that crowd come up here for?'" the senator joked of curious onlookers. "Did they warn your neighbors we were coming?" he asked the Todds with a laugh.

    "We've had a few calls this morning," Malinda Sue acknowledged.

    Reporters were the only spectators at the talk focusing on jobs and healthcare and Malinda Sue wanted to make sure Edwards' targeted visit wasn't a campaign stunt. When aides indicated time was up, she threw out one last question. "You're not going to forget about us as soon as the election's over? Because you guys have been here, the Republicans have been here — don't forget about us."

    "No ma'am," Edwards answered. "'Cause I come from a place just like this, it's part of who I am."

    From the front porch to the center of town, Edwards rallied about 1,000 West Virginians and addressed the dominant political story: the Republican Convention. "When you're watching this convention on television from New York City, I want you to remember what they said last time," he said referring to the 2000 convention and what was said about former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

    "[Mr. Bush] said 'they have not led, we will.' Yeah, he's led us all right," he continued. "Has he led us to more jobs? Has he led us to better healthcare? Has he led us to a safer America? The truth is he's led us from the edge of greatness off a cliff and it's time to lead George W. Bush back to Crawford, Texas," he said to the receptive crowd.

    Edwards later arrived at the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Best Western in the early evening but the candidate did not have the luxury of down time. In a hotel conference room, the senator got a three-hour national security briefing from acting CIA director John McLaughlin. While the campaign did not notify the press of the briefing, added Secret Service in the hotel's lobby and McLaughlin's presence were a tip-off. The campaign later confirmed the briefing occurred and revealed it was on "wide-ranging issues."

    How Many Debates? In the first serious salvos of the debate over debates, CBS News' John Roberts reports that the Bush-Cheney campaign will announce James Baker as their 2004 debate negotiator. The word is that the Bush campaign will only agree to two presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. That is one fewer debate than the Commission on Presidential Debates had proposed and the Kerry campaign has accepted. According to Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, Team Kerry hopes Mr. Bush will revise his plan upwards. She told CBS News, "we hope the American people will have at least three debates."

    And in Florida's Primary: It's now official: Mel Martinez, favorite candidate of the Bush White House, beat Bill McCollum in the Florida Republican senate primary. Martinez will face Democrat Betty Castor, who won handily over Rep. Peter Deutsch. And, in what surely is sweet irony, Palm Beach county elections supervisor Theresa LePore was edged out by Arthur Anderson. According to the Palm Beach Post, "Anderson's campaign was driven by money, endorsements and residual anger stimulated by U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, whose own crusade for a paper ballot trail put him at legal and political odds with LePore long before the supervisor's race began."

    Quote of the Day: "Don't be economic girlie men!" Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, talking about economic pessimists in his speech to the Republican National Convention.