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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


The way the president and his aides tell it, if you were to reduce Mr. Bush's convention acceptance speech to a single sentence, it's this: "Even though we've done a lot, I'm here to tell you there's more to do."

It's at the heart of every campaign speech he makes, including the one Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio. In a preview of his Thursday night speech, he said he'll lay out a vision "for a safer world and a more hopeful America."

He'll speak of his plans to strengthen the economy, make health care more accessible and affordable and further improve public schools. He'll talk of expanding the 'ownership society' to give more people what he calls a vital stake in America.

And he'll staunchly defend his actions in the war on terrorism, especially the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, declaring they have made America and the world safer.

The president wants to talk about his plans for a second term. He'll offer some new initiatives on education and taxes, but nothing that costs much money as he presides over the largest federal deficits in U.S. history.

Speaking of his speech, Mr. Bush has said "we've got a great record." He says "we've faced a recession ... helped reform education ... reformed Medicare ... (and) got trade promotion authority." And a Bush campaign official says the president will speak of how he intends to build on those and other accomplishments in a second term.

Expect the speech to run just under an hour. That's how long it ran Wednesday in rehearsal.

Firefighter's Endorsement

The first stop for President Bush on his arrival in New York on Wednesday evening was a meeting in Queens with about 100 off-duty firefighters. It was intended as a tribute to the First Responders who risked and lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11.

But it was also a political stop. The Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York endorsed Mr. Bush for re-election. The group represents 20,000 active-duty and retired firefighters.

The visit was also a moving experience for Mr. Bush. Present at the session was Bob Beckwith, the firefighter standing beside the president on the rubble of the World Trade Center, three days after the 9/11 attacks.

"The inspiration I received from the firefighters on that site is something I'll never forget," said Mr. Bush. The president's session with the firefighters was transmitted to the big screens at the GOP Convention in Madison Square Garden.

Convention delegates hear from him in person on Thursday but he won't stick around long. Once he's done speaking, the president heads back immediately to the campaign trail. First stop: Scranton, Pa., where he addresses a rally Friday morning.
--Mark Knoller


While most political junkies were watching Vice President Cheney and Sen. Zell Miller, D-Georgia, at the Republican convention Wednesday night, Kerry couldn't have been bothered to see what they were saying about him.

After leaving Nashville and arriving in Nantucket just after 9 p.m., Kerry headed straight to dinner with his wife Teresa. The two dined at Chanticleer, the pricey French restaurant that was the site of their 1995 wedding reception.

Following dinner, their motorcade made its way back across the island and on their way home, Kerry and his wife decided they wanted to walk the final mile from downtown Nantucket to their beach house.

Just before they embarked on their stroll, Kerry was asked if he had watched any of the GOP proceedings and he responded, "How could I?" However, he somehow knew what was going on in New York City after a reporter suggested he "took some knocks" during the convention.

"I don't think so," Kerry shot back.

The Kerrys shook hands with some fans at the corner of Easy and Main Streets prior their 25-minute walk, though not all of the people around were supporters.

A group of young, seemingly drunk college-age folks shouted "Bush-Cheney '04" and "Kerry sucks" from a nearby house. Being ignored by the candidate, they decided they would contemplate a stunt that could grab a bit more attention.

"Where are the (expletive) water balloons?" one of the kids asked repeatedly, loud enough for folks on the street to hear, including Secret Service.

Before they could unleash their torrent of wet ammunition, however, several members of Kerry's security detail crept closer to the house, effectively putting an end to any thoughts of drenching the Democratic candidate.
--Steve Chaggaris


John Edwards was up at 5:00 a.m. Thursday for network morning show interviews to counter what Vice President Cheney had to say at the convention about the Kerry-Edwards team. And it's a long day ahead, culminating in a joint midnight rally with his running mate in Ohio.

But at a front porch visit in Pittston, Pa., on Wednesday, Edwards revealed he hasn't been contributing to the convention ratings. "I tell you I have not been watching much of this myself, because I've been traveling and busy," he confided to laid-off factory workers.

But he is paying attention. At the next campaign stop in Wilkes-Barre, Edwards told a crowd of about 1,000, "I predict that at least part of his speech tonight will be a negative attack on Senator John Kerry — aren't you sick of this?

"The American people should ask themselves why would the Vice President of the United States spend the chance that he has to speak to the American people with these kinds of negative, personal attacks," Edwards continued. "The answer [is] the facts of the last four years," he said before insinuating Republicans won't address issues like jobs and healthcare because they have failed in their first term.

Edwards' remarks may not have shared the front page with the Republican convention, but his campaign did make some news, thanks in part to President Bush. The senator was scheduled to take off from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport a little after 3 p.m. for Philadelphia, but was delayed for nearly two hours when the airport's main runway was closed for repairs.

A military C-17 cargo plane carrying vehicles for the president's Friday visit to the region damaged the runway when the heavy plane turned around after landing. A 10-by-10 foot section of the runway had to be patched up before it was deemed useable, "which will not be the last time we clean up George W. Bush's mess," joked one staffer.

Edwards waited on his plane while airport crews made the repairs. Some of the staff and press tossed a football on the closed tarmac. The Senator's jet finally took off just before 5 p.m. for the short 15-minute flight to Philadelphia. Fortunately, no Edwards supporters were kept waiting as a result. The candidate had no events scheduled for the rest of the day; perhaps to be sure he could watch the vice president's convention speech on television.
--Bonney Kapp

The vice president could have said just about anything in his convention speech Wednesday and it still would have seemed tame compared to Zell Miller's anti-Kerry barrage. And while Dick Cheney certainly leveled some of his own criticism against the Democratic candidate, the substance and tone (or monotone?) of the address was not a departure from most of his standard stump speeches.

The points that got the most applause Wednesday have been well rehearsed on the road. The line, "George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend the American people," has been uttered nearly every time the Vice President has spoken in public this summer.

So has, "In Iraq, we dealt with a gathering threat, and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein. Seventeen months ago, he controlled the lives and fortunes of 25 million people. Tonight, he sits in jail."

Lines like that and others concerning the war on terror, Iraq and Kerry's perceived "flip-flops" are political "gimmees" for the ravenous Republican audiences the Vice President addresses.

But Wednesday's speech was for a national audience. As a result, some of the normal stumping points were streamlined. Although Cheney mentioned the dismantling of "black-market network" of nuclear weapons, gone was the mention of Pakistan and the specifics of the man who supplied the nuclear technology.

In its place, the vice president spent more time drawing historical comparisons between the war on terror and other national challenges, including World War II and the Cold War. That, in turn, segued into a critique into of Mr. Kerry's voting record in the Senate.

The line, "Although he voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, he then decided he was opposed to the war, and voted against funding for our men and women in the field," resulted in a rousing cheer of "flip-flop!" led by the Louisiana delegation. The metronome-like arm waving and jeering will no doubt be a new standard with rowdy audiences until the election.

The vice president stood at the podium with a bemused look until the crowd settled down.

Cheney began and ended his speech by reminding the audience of the opportunities each American is presented by just being American. It was such an important theme that hundreds of "Opportunity" placards were given out to delegates on the floor, along with "Let Freedom Reign" and "W for President" signs.

But woe be the delegate who prematurely held the wrong placard over his head. A team of sign wranglers quickly reprimanded anyone caught waving the "Opportunity" sign before the vice president used the word in his speech. --Josh Gross