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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


On Monday there was a new exchange of rhetorical fire over the invasion of Iraq.

At his one and only political event on Labor Day, President Bush returned fire at John Kerry - who denounced the U.S.-led military action in Iraq as the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Addressing a rally in the out-of-the-way town of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, the president accused his rival of another flip-flop on the issue. "After voting for the war but against funding it, after saying he would have voted for the war even knowing everything we know today, my opponent woke up this morning with new campaign advisors and yet another new position: suddenly, he's against it again."

With thousands of his supporters joining in the ridicule of Kerry by chanting "flip-flop, flip-flop," Mr. Bush defended his decision on Iraq. "No matter how many times Senator Kerry changes his mind - it was right for America then and it's right for America now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power."

Back On The Bus

President Bush will continue to hit the issue Tuesday as he boards the Bush-Cheney campaign bus for a re-election drive through other parts of Missouri. He has scheduled stops in the towns of Lee's Summit, Sedalia and Columbia.

Mr. Bush is making his 21st visit to the Show-Me-State, and his eighth this year. He won the state's 11 electoral votes four years ago, though by just 3.34% - way too narrow a margin to take for granted this year.

The Bush bus got a paint job last week and now carries the campaign slogans: "A Safer World" and "A More Hopeful America." Both are from Mr. Bush's speech last Thursday to the Republican National Convention.

Whose Rally Is It?

The Bush campaign is getting something of a free ride on the president's swing through Missouri as the Republican National Committee sponsors three of the four rallies he's doing.

That spares the Bush campaign from having to dig into its limited resources to pay the arrangements for the events. The RNC is also sponsoring rallies for the vice president and first lady.

Bush to Florida

The White House announced President Bush would travel to Florida again on Wednesday to survey damage from Hurricane Frances. He made a similar visit to the state last month after it was battered by Hurricane Charley.

Mr. Bush also sent Congress a message urging it to act immediately on his request for another $2 billion in disaster relief for Florida. The president is making an unabashed effort to show his concern for Florida - which decided the 2000 election and is deemed essential to his re-election bid. His brother Jeb is also the state's governor.

Practice Their What?

In his campaign speech Monday, as in every campaign speech he gives, the President again called for an end to "frivolous lawsuits" against doctors and hospitals that run up the cost of health care.

He said such litigation drives too many doctors out of business. And then he said: "Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."


But Mr. Bush didn't miss a beat - and went on to accuse John Kerry of choosing trial lawyers like his running mate over the needs of doctors and patients.

--Mark Knoller


So you thought that the "W" in George W. Bush's name stood for Walker? According to Kerry's new campaign theme, the "W" stands for something much more negative.

After criticism from fellow Democrats that he was not taking the offensive, Kerry unleashed a new, more aggressive tone on Labor Day with one major quip/focus: "W stands for wrong."

"It all comes down to one letter -- W. George W. Bush," Kerry told a crowd at a United Mine Workers Association picnic in Racine, W. Va. "The 'W' stands for wrong choices, wrong judgment, wrong priorities, wrong direction for our country," he continued, using the theme for the remaining 20 minutes of his speech to highlight their differences on health care, jobs, education, Social Security and Iraq.

And while he continued his new riff at a later rally in Cleveland, there were several other signs that the campaign was attempting to become more assertive in dealing with its opponents.

At a morning front porch event outside of Pittsburgh, a large group of pro-Bush hecklers shouted throughout the event - and they were not ignored by the candidate. For instance, Kerry was discussing his belief that the tax burden under President Bush has shifted to the "average American" from the wealthy, prompting a naysayer to sarcastically yell that Kerry was "average."

"He's right. I'm privileged," Kerry said, directly responding to the heckler. "My tax burden went down and I don't think that's right. I think your tax burden ought to go down."

"This is about fundamental fairness and the fact is George W. Bush and I fit in the same category of privilege but the fact is he has a different view about life. He thinks the wealthiest people ought to be rewarded again, I don't."

Kerry also unveiled a new, more concise answer to the Iraq issue, something that his intra-party critics complained he had continually muddled. "I would not have done just one thing differently than the president on Iraq, I would have done everything differently from the president on Iraq," Kerry repeated throughout the day.

Incidentally, all the aggressiveness didn't come in the form of serious policy discussion.

After receiving a double-barrel shotgun from a local union leader at the West Virginia event, Kerry quipped, "I thank you for the gift but I can't take it to the debate with me."
--Steve Chaggaris


John Edwards and his family enjoyed a day off after his two-day bus tour at a Sheboygan, Wisconsin, resort off Lake Michigan Sunday. The senator, who stayed in the presidential suite, accompanied his two young children to the resort's indoor water park and arcade. Edwards blended in with the other parents at the busy park adding to his man of the people persona, but the T-shirted candidate did stop to shake a few hands with the other mothers and fathers.

Back to work on Labor Day, Edwards drove to a Milwaukee suburb to speak to voters at a front porch visit-turned town hall in Craig and Katie Tinsen's yard. Near the end of the campaign event, Edwards obliged Katie Simenson, a woman in the crowd who had waited for nearly a half an hour.

"You have to speak up--they're going to run you right over and make you look like idiots," Simenson said, urging the Democrats to stand up to Republican attacks, the fourth such request at an Edwards town hall-style event.

"Boy, I'm sure glad I let you ask a question," the candidate responded good naturedly. "The answer to your question is you look at what John Kerry has spent his life doing from the time he volunteered for military service in Vietnam to today; this man is strong, courageous, and he's a fighter. I like to believe I am the same thing," he continued.

Noticing she was unsatisfied with the response, Edwards added, "Don't shake your head-we will fight every way we know how, but we're fighting for you, we're not fighting with these politicians. George Bush wants to fight with politicians; we want to fight for you."

Simenson, who garnered much of the media's attention following the event, told reporters she thought Edwards gave a "politician's answer" and that if the Democratic ticket doesn't heed her advice, "a lot of people will vote for Bush because [Republicans] are really good at making people look bad."

With that, Edwards took off for St. Paul to speak at a Labor Day picnic-- his plane forced to circle the Minnesota airport for about 20 minutes. Later, Edwards acknowledged, "Thank you for waiting-- you know today Dick Cheney disrupted our landing. Come November, we're going to disrupt his landing."

The candidate focused on jobs in his speech to members of the AFL-CIO and Walter Mondale, who observed Kerry and Edwards were beginning to return fire on Republicans. "Oh yeah, I think we gotta fight, absolutely," he told CBS News.

At his third and final event and state of the day, Edwards rallied a crowd of some 7,000 at a Kalamazoo, Michigan park. "The first thing I want all of you to know is we're going to fight," he said to cheers. But one of the biggest applause lines of the night was when Edwards used more forceful language. "What I think will actually be good for the American economy is to outsource this administration."

On Tuesday, Edwards has a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, and an evening fundraiser in Bloomington, Ill.
--Bonney Kapp

For many in the Midwest, going to a state fair or spending the afternoon at the lake is probably a normal Labor Day. Apparently, it is for the vice president, too.

Vice President Cheney attended the final day of the Minnesota State Fair and conducted a town-hall meeting for the GOP faithful. With wife Lynne at his side, he delivered opening remarks and then took questions from the audience.

Although his comments were still heavy on national security and the war on terror, in a departure from his usual opening, he began his speech on the economy. In a roundabout way, he discussed the importance reforming medical liability legislation so small businesses could afford health care and could then hire more people and thus strengthen the economy.

He also attacked the Kerry/Edwards ticket proposed tax plan. "We disagree with the proposition that some have suggested, that we raise taxes. That is exactly the wrong medicine at this stage of our economic recovery," he stated bluntly. "The worst possible thing we could do now is raise taxes."

Cheney next went after a pillar of John Edwards' primary campaign: the idea of two Americas. It "sort of harkens back to some sort of class system or class warfare approach. I think if you start out with that basic assumption, that it really is a misconception about the way our country works and should work," he continued.

Later in the day, the vice president traveled south and spoke on the shores of Clear Lake, Iowa. Again, he used his standard campaign speech but added another jab at Kerry.

In terms of Kerry questioning our allies in the war on terror, the vice president dusted off an old criticism. "For this part -- for his part, " said Cheney, "the President's opponent, Senator Kerry, calls our allies a 'coalition of coerced and the bribed' and 'window dressing.'"

But in response, Cheney took a shot at Kerry's ocean hobby.

"I've got news for Senator Kerry. As General Tommy Franks said recently, every contribution from every nation is important. They deserve our respect, not insults. Demeaning our allies is an interesting approach for someone seeking the office of the presidency. When it comes to diplomacy, it looks to me like John Kerry should stick to windsurfing."

The vice president continues his trip in Iowa on Tuesday and then continues to New Hampshire in the afternoon.
--Josh Gross

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