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 CBSNews.com
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
Making his way to the site of tomorrow night's third and final debate with John Kerry, President Bush does campaign events today in Colorado and Arizona. Both states were in his win column four years ago and he's trying to insure they remain there three weeks from today.
Mr. Bush addresses a Republican Victory '04 rally in Colorado Springs and then heads south to a GOP fund-raiser in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
After that, there's nothing on his public schedule until Wednesday night's face-to-face verbal clash with his Democratic challenger. And the president would have us believe he's looking forward to it.
"We had a great debate Friday night," he told rallies yesterday. He seems fired up for the next encounter, in the belief it highlights the differences between him and Kerry "on issues ranging from jobs to taxes to health care to the war on terror."
The last debate is to focus exclusively on domestic issues and CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer serves as the moderator.
A Nuisance Issue
President Bush used his speeches yesterday to ridicule John Kerry for this comment in Sunday's New York Times Magazine that, "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance."
At rallies in New Mexico and Colorado, Mr. Bush lashed out saying, "Now, just this weekend, Senator Kerry talked of reducing terrorism to, quote, "nuisance," end quote, and compared it to prostitution and illegal gambling. See, I couldn't disagree more. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorists, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world."
The Kerry campaign fired back, spokesman Phil Singer saying the attack is "insulting the basic intelligence of the public by resorting to tired and desperate tactics to cling to power." Further, Singer calls it "a dishonest and disingenuous way to campaign ... and another pathetic attempt to play the politics of fear."
It goes without saying the rhetoric will get even more high voltage as the election draws nearer.
A Salute From A General
In the scenic splendor of Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater, Mr. Bush was introduced at a rally yesterday by retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who commanded the invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam.
Franks offered a passionate assertion of Mr. Bush's leadership in the war.
"I have seen this president, this commander in chief, when the nights were long and the mornings were early and the decisions to be made were hard - and you know what I saw? I saw character, I saw courage and I saw consistency," Franks said.
He urged voters to keep Mr. Bush as commander-in-chief.
Warming Up The Crowd
It didn't take much to fire up the crowd at the Red Rocks rally, but some Denver Broncos cheerleaders didn't hurt.
They came out wearing tight jeans and t-shirts emblazoned with the words, "Victory in the Rockies." And forming a human slingshot, they propelled some of the t-shirts into the audience.
Another special moment in presidential politics.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS.
Late Monday night, Kerry's campaign made a change in his schedule, opting to keep the senator in Santa Fe, N.M., tonight in lieu of traveling on to Arizona to be in place for tomorrow's debate.
The extra night in the Land of Enchantment not only gives the senator more time to prep for his final showdown with the president but allows him to watch the first game of the American League Championship Series featuring his beloved Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees.
Barring any unexpected outings, Kerry's expected to spend today out of the public eye, prepping for the final presidential debate with his team, which includes attorney Greg Craig playing the role of President Bush. Last night, Kerry was up late with his debate team, as he was spotted leaving a prep session at his Santa Fe hotel at 10:15 p.m., mountain time.
Meantime, on Monday, Kerry delivered a speech sharply criticizing the president's energy policy and offered his ideas to make the U.S., "energy independent."
In a direct response to Bush-Cheney TV ads running in New Mexico that accuse Kerry of supporting increases in the gasoline tax, he shot back saying that gas prices are at a record high under Mr. Bush.
"To borrow a saying, when it comes to George Bush's record on gas prices, he can run but he can't hide," said Kerry. "Facts, as President Ronald Reagan reminded us, are stubborn things, Mr. President."
At the top of his remarks, he paid tribute to his friend Christopher Reeve, who died on Sunday. Kerry revealed that Reeve had contacted him after Friday night's debate, where Kerry used Reeve's paralysis as an example of what stem cell research could eventually cure.
"I was really blown away because on Saturday, after the debate, I picked up my cell phone and had a wonderful, long message from Chris, who called me to thank me for talking about the possibilities of a cure," Kerry said, almost choking up. "And the excitement in his voice - this was just before he went into the hospital - the excitement in his voice, I had no idea he was going in because he didn't tell me that. The excitement in his voice was just really palpable. And he was so thrilled about where the discussion of stem cell research had come to."
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
"I got to tell you, the rest of you are impressive, but that's the best question I've had at one of these town hall meetings," John Edwards responded to the seventh question at his Newton, Iowa, event.
It wasn't a concern about healthcare or social security that elicited such a response from the senator, but a little girl's request for a hug. Edwards obliged, making it one of the best, most straight forward answers given by the candidate at a town hall event.
Buried in his stump speech, the senator addressed the politically hot topic of stem cell research and acknowledged the death of actor-turned-advocate, Christopher Reeve. "If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to get up out of that wheelchair and walk again," he said.
At his second event in the second battleground state of the day, Edwards was introduced by the latest Kerry/Edwards adviser, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in Kansas City, Mo., who brought up the issue of experience.
"While he's been blessed with this youthful vitality and appearance, he's eight years older than John Kennedy was," Jackson noted. "It's not about his age, but about his character, his values, the dues he has paid. So we embrace his leadership because he represents morning time in America," the reverend continued.
After a sufficient pumping up from the reverend, Edwards took the stage at the Missouri rally and addressed the energized crowd of several thousand supporters.
"As we go into this debate on Wednesday, we've already seen over the last 24 to 48 hours that they're so afraid of what John Kerry has shown in these two debates-they've shown he's strong, decisive, that he's ready to be commander in chief, and therefore they're engaged in these false attacks in the politics of fear and telling the American people something they know is not true because they've seen John Kerry in the last two debates," Edwards said referring to a new Republican attack ad, "World View."
He continued, "I just want to say something, George Bush is the man who let Osama bin Laden get away at Tora Bora. George Bush is the man who said we may not be able to win this war on terrorism. George Bush is the man who created this mess in Iraq, and come November the American people are going to choose a new president, a new commander-in-chief; someone who can lead us out of this mess."
Edwards then headed across the state line into the Republican stronghold known as Kansas, his second venture to the traditionally red state, for a $350,000 fundraiser. With three weeks until Election Day, the campaign expects even more events in Republican districts, reaching out to Independents and Republicans in a final effort to convert voters.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY
Three weeks out from Election Day, Vice President Cheney has no more need for niceties. The crowds haven't gathered to hear cute stories or political anecdotes. They want to hear good things about President Bush and bad things about Senator Kerry. On Monday, the vice president was happy to oblige.
At a rally in Medford N.J., Cheney ticked the differences off like a metronome. "On vital matters of national security, Senator Kerry offers a record of weakness and a strategy of retreat. President Bush offers a record of steady purpose and resolute action, and a strategy for victory."
Concerning social issues: "Senator Kerry is a tax-and-spend liberal. President Bush is a compassionate conservative."
Political philosophies? "Senator Kerry is a tax-and-spend liberal. President Bush is a compassionate conservative."
What about the American people? "John Kerry seems to think that all the wisdom is found in Washington, D.C. George Bush trusts the wisdom of the American people."
But the address wasn't just negative speech and implied political insults because Vice President Cheney had something specific on his mind. The quickly infamous "nuisance" article in the New York Times that drew the president's attention on Monday was also the focus of Cheney's address.
He read from the article, "Quote: 'We have to get back to the place,' he said, where terrorism is 'a nuisance,' sort of like, and these are his comparisons, sort of like 'gambling' and 'prostitution.'"
"This is naive and dangerous, as was Sen. Kerry's reluctance earlier this year to call the war on terror an actual war," he continues for the crowd. "He preferred to think of it, he said, as primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation. This is all part of a pre-9/11 mind set, and it is a view we cannot go back to."
By Tuesday morning, the vice president, having had more time to reflect, posed rhetorical questions to a breakfast roundtable in Davenport, Iowa. "I asked myself, well, when was terrorism only a nuisance? Was it in 1983 when terrorists hit our embassy that spring in Beirut and killed several Americans? Or in the fall of '83 in Beirut when they killed 241 Marines with a suicide bomber and a truck bomb? Or maybe it was 1988 in December when they took down Pan Am 103 over Scotland?"
He continued by describing several other high profile terrorist attacks against U.S. interests. "How do you look back on that track record and say there was ever a time in the last twenty years when we didn't have to be concerned about terror, when we didn't pay a price for it."
Once again, the core of the vice president's argument against the election of Sen. Kerry is the senator's own words. "Nuisance" will join the ranks of "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it," "Global Test', and "Sensitive war on terrorism" in the Cheney Hall of Fame of Anti-Kerry phrases.