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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


No Rest For The Weary

Within minutes of ending his acceptance speech last night, President Bush was speeding to JFK to be in place for the start this morning of his two-day post-convention campaign swing.

It's an effort to generate momentum and a bounce in the polls from the convention.

Today's targets are Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa - three battleground states Mr. Bush lost four years ago by narrow margins. But all are states he's aggressively trying to win this year. Especially Pennsylvania. This is his 34th visit to the state since taking office and his 9th this year.

In fact, he returns to Pennsylvania tomorrow for yet another campaign rally, at the end of a bus tour through Ohio.

The Speech

It ran just over an hour and gave President Bush the opportunity to address the largest audience he'll have for any campaign speech.

And though he proved to be no Zell Miller in the ferocity of attacks on John Kerry, Mr. Bush took more than a few swipes at his challenger.

"His policies of tax and spend, of expanding government rather than expanding opportunity, are the policies of the past," said Mr. Bush.

Before his largely conservative convention audience, he ridiculed Kerry at some length for claiming to have conservative values.

And as he does in every campaign speech, the president blasted Kerry and his running mate for voting against the $87 billion in funding last year for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I Have Flaws Too"

But the president also used his speech last night to show he could poke fun at himself.

"You may have noticed I have a few flaws, too," said Mr. Bush.

He said he knew he had a problem expressing himself when Arnold Schwarzenegger started correcting his English."

He joked that some folks look at him and see a certain swagger. But in Texas, he said, it's just called walking.

And with tongue-in-cheek, he admitted he may come across as a little too blunt.

But he said, "for that we can all thank the white-haired lady sitting right up there."

It was a reference to his mother and her reputation for being something of a domineering matriarch.

No New Tax Cuts

The president didn't announce plans for any new tax cuts, if re-elected. But he did say the federal tax code needs to be simplified.

He called it "a complicated mess" and a "drag on our economy."

A few weeks back he called the National Sales Tax "an interesting idea," but he didn't mention it last night.

Instead, he said he'd appoint a bipartisan panel to recommend options for fixing or replacing the tax code.
--Mark Knoller


Minutes after President Bush's speech to the Republican convention Thursday night, Kerry and Edwards joined up to rally their troops in Springfield, Ohio, where Kerry, on the one-year anniversary of his official campaign kickoff, made his harshest and most direct attack of President Bush and Vice President Cheney yet.

"The vice president called me unfit for office last night," Kerry said about Cheney's Wednesday convention speech. "I'm going to leave it up to the voters to decide whether five deferments makes someone more qualified than two tours of duty."

Kerry's fired-up comments revealed that he was clearly smarting from the criticisms of his Vietnam service from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group and from Cheney's pointed jabs about Kerry's "habit of indecision" and that the Democrat has repeatedly "made the wrong call on national security"

"They attacked my patriotism and even my fitness to serve as commander in chief," Kerry said. "I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq."

A campaign aide said that this line of attack probably will not become a regular part of Kerry's stump speech and is not expected to show up in his remarks on Friday, as the focus will be on jobs. However, "when they (Bush and Cheney) turn this into a debate about character," the aide said, the lines will resurface.

Spokesman David Wade said that the decision to hit Bush-Cheney directly Thursday night was Kerry's after he read newspaper accounts of Cheney's speech and not because of Democratic Sen. Zell Miller's scathing keynote address Wednesday night.

"We could care less about what a former segregationist like Zell Miller has to say," Wade said. "This is about Dick Cheney."

"When you're a decorated combat veteran, those kinds of attacks mean something to you," he continued. "He's not going to take it from someone who received five deferments."
--Steve Chaggaris


John Edwards wasted no time responding to remarks made at Wednesday's Republican convention at his town-hall meeting outside Philadelphia Thursday afternoon.

"There's a lot of hope and optimism coming out of that place last night," Edwards said sarcastically to about 500 residents of Norristown, Pa. "The anger we heard from Sen. Miller, the anger we heard from the vice president -- anger is not going to change this country and do what needs to be done for America."

But a few Democrats are angry. It was the third town-hall meeting Sen. Edwards has heard a participant urge the party's ticket to take a stronger stand. "You're up against the dirtiest fighters in the world, and when they hit you, you gotta hit back twice," a man in the audience said while others in the crowd applauded.

Edwards maintained the hopeful, optimistic message will remain intact, responding, "There's a difference between how you fight and who you're fighting for. It's one thing to engage in a lot of personal assaults that we saw last night; it's another thing to fight with everything you've got for the American people and the people you believe in."

"I personally believe it's a sign of character and strength what we've seen from John Kerry," Edwards continued.

A few hours later at the senators' joint midnight rally in Springfield, Ohio, Edwards introduced his running mate. "He is a fighter and you're about to see it," Edwards told the late night crowd. While Kerry came out swinging against the Republican ticket's military records, Edwards stood on stage applauding approvingly. "Character and strength" supplemented by a one-two punch.
--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