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Trail Bytes

As the presidential race heads into the home stretch, CBS News reporters are out on the road traveling with the Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards campaigns.

Read their dispatches and keep up with the latest campaign news in Trail Bytes, updated daily on


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. --Mark Knoller


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.
--Steve Chaggaris


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."
--Bonney Kapp

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.
--Josh Gross