Watch CBSN Live

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


With his sights locked on the toss-up states, President Bush campaigns Monday in New Hampshire. He does one of his "Ask President Bush" events in the town of Derry. Democratic rival John Kerry campaigned there exactly one month earlier.

Mr. Bush won New Hampshire in 2000 but by the very narrow margin of 1.27 pecent. Though the state only has four electoral votes to offer, in a race this tight, Mr. Bush cannot afford to spare any of them.

Economic conditions have improved in New Hampshire. The unemployment rate in the state is down to 3.7 percent - well under the national average of 5.4 percent.

But looking to cast a cloud over the Bush visit, the Kerry campaign points out that since the attacks of 9/11, 57 percent of New Hampshire reservists and guard members have been called up. And that as of this month, some 800 of the state's 1,700 Army National Guard members were on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today marks Mr. Bush's ninth visit as president to New Hampshire, and the fifth this year.

Only the most die-hard cynic would suggest politics has anything to do with it, but President Bush Sunday evening issued disaster declarations for Pennsylvania and Ohio - two battleground states in which he's been campaigning aggressively.

The presidential action clears the way for federal aid to help individuals, businesses and state and local governments rebuild in the wake of damage inflicted by Hurricane Ivan in Pennsylvania and other storms and flooding in Ohio.

The president spent much of Sunday inspecting hurricane damage in Florida and Alabama. The disaster declarations for those two states were issued within hours of Ivan making landfall.

In remarks after his inspection tour, Mr. Bush offered assurances that the federal government will "get help out here as quickly as we can."

The president ends the day Monday in New York City. Despite his successful convention there, his campaign harbors little hope of winning the Empire State which voted overwhelmingly for Al Gore in 2000.

But there are still well-heeled Republicans in the Big Apple and since Mr. Bush was going to be in the city anyway, in advance of his Tuesday speech to the United Nations General Assembly, he's helping the Republican National Committee at a fundraiser this evening.

In recent weeks, the RNC has been staging most of the campaign rallies President Bush has been addressing. That saves money for the Bush campaign, which can no longer raise money and must rely on the $75 million in funding it received from the Federal Election Commission.
--Mark Knoller


After declaring over the weekend that he's in a "fighting mood," John Kerry is in New York City Monday to hammer President Bush again on Iraq, to speak to women at a Redbook luncheon, to chat with David Letterman and raise some cash.

Monday morning, hours before Bush arrives in the Big Apple, Kerry increased the criticism of the administration's handling of Iraq during a speech at New York University.

In his continuing effort to chip away at voters' support for Bush's handling of the war on terror, Kerry said, "Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists.

"Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight," he continued, according to prepared remarks.

"His two main rationales - weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection - have been proved false... by the President's own weapons inspectors... and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.

"The president now admits to "miscalculations" in Iraq. That is one of the greatest understatements in recent American history. His were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment."

Kerry's remarks come two days after he told a DNC fund-raiser in Boston that Bush and the Republicans "have got me in a fighting mood," before alluding to his own history of winning elections in the last weeks of his campaigns.

"I feel those October juices flowing, and I've been at this for a while; when those juices get flowing, I feel good."

Interesting convoluted logistical item: After Kerry's afternoon at the Redbook luncheon and his Letterman appearance early this evening, he'll attend two Democratic Party fundraisers at the Hilton New York, the hotel where President Bush's traveling press will be staying the night. Simultaneously, Bush will be at a fundraiser at the Sheraton New York, across the street from the Sheraton Manhattan where the Kerry traveling press is overnighting.
--Steve Chaggaris


John Edwards' last minute trip to tour flood damage in Asheville, N.C., was also cancelled at the last minute. Instead the senator sent Sunday prayers while dropping by the Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

"There are families who've lost loved ones and there are families who have lost their homes so I would ask all of you to join with me and your pastor to pray for those families who are struggling every day."

Edwards spoke briefly at the church, but had enough time to give parishioners a reason to vote for the Democrats. Citing the Supreme Court's decision to uphold affirmative action by the "slimmest of margins," Edwards pointed out to the mostly African American congregation that over the next few years, it's likely the president will have to appoint new justices.

"We don't want the cause of justice to be hanging by a thread, do we?" he asked. "We want to continue to march forward to justice and equality and freedom in this country. Well, in order to do that, we need to make sure that those appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court are men and women who are committed to the cause of justice and freedom in America."

At two rallies in Pennsylvania, Edwards ramped up his stump speech with a couple of new jabs at the Bush administration, showing the senator isn't idly spewing optimism while the Republicans have their way as some recent reports have indicated.

Discussing troops coming home from long deployments only to be sent to Iraq, Edwards told Phoenixville voters, "Now there's news that there's a backroom deal working to call out more, more reservists, more National Guard - after the election." He continued, "Let me tell you and I want you to tell all your friends here in Pennsylvania this-when John Kerry is president of the United States, we're going to get rid of backdoor draft."

Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Brian Jones called Edwards' attack a "conspiracy theory" that "is completely irresponsible and as baseless as Kerry's claims to meet with and be endorsed by foreign leaders."

At his evening rally in Johnstown, Pa., Edwards reacted to Dennis Hastert's affirmation at a fundraiser that he believes al Qaeda could operate better with a Kerry administration. Edwards accused the Speaker of the House of joining the "fear mongering chorus" conducted by Bush/Cheney.

"These two people are taking one of our nation's great tragedies and trying to turn it into a cheap, political trick," he said. "And you, the people of Pennsylvania, the people of Johnstown, the people of America, come November, you're going to make them pay for it," he said to the crowd that agreed to help out.

It was a full day in Pennsylvania, but the candidate did take time from the stump to toss a football with Pittsburgh Steeler Hall of Famer and Edwards' opening act at the Johnstown rally, Franco Harris. A photo-op to be sure, Edwards joked with on-looking press, calling us "targets" since our rolling cameras meant we had no free hands. Jabbing the ball in our direction he laughed and added, "I kind of like the looks of that, actually."

So how has the former high school football player held up after more than 30 years? Although Harris commented, "Not quite like Terry [Bradshaw], but not bad," Edwards didn't throw one bad pass and caught each ball tossed to him- including one poorly thrown which the senator caught with one hand on his way inside. "Did you get that?" he asked the cameras before the game of catch ended.
--Bonney Kapp


It was a day of ad-libs and unscripted remarks as the vice president held two campaign events on Friday and traveled home from Oregon.

The day started in Oregon City, Ore., a few miles outside of Portland, where Vice President Cheney held court at a town hall meeting and took a few questions. Before the event started, Cheney was introduced by his daughter Liz, who was filling in for her mother, Lynne Cheney. Accompanying Liz on stage was her daughter Elizabeth who celebrated her seventh birthday with a serenade of "Happy Birthday" from the crowd.

It was then down to business as the vice president took the stage and made his usual opening remarks on the wars on terror and Iraq and the economy. But it was during the question and answer period that Cheney got a chance to relax and interact with the crowd.

When asked a very specific question about the process of cleaning radioactive contamination by a owner of a company that does just that, Cheney tried to clarify the question, but then just played the part of a good businessman.

"You're talking what's done on a commercial base, or as part of a security measure in terms of dealing with threats? Both. Okay. Well, give me your card and I'll make sure we..." he said before he was cut by the crowd who laughed and applauded as the man approached the vice president and handed him his card.

The vice president later flew to Eugene Ore., where he delivered remarks at a re-election rally. Again, before his speech, another personal connection was made with the audience.

"I believe I've got a cousin in the audience here today, Alice Dickey Knokey - someplace," he said as he scanned the crowd. "Alice if you can work your way around back over here while I'm talking, get back over in this corner of the room, I'll have somebody pick you up and we'll get a chance to chat for a minute after we get through."

But before the family reunion could occur, a rare thing happened for the usually well choreographed event - two protesters began chanting their disapproval of the vice president.

Wearing white clothes with phrases like "Stop Killing People" and "Bring Our Troops Home Now!" the man and the woman were quickly shouted down by the audience. But things got ugly when another member of the crowd took security into his own hands and tackled the male protester, mumbling expletives the whole time.

When the vice president realized the protest had turned into a scuffle, he urged the crowd "treat him with kindness now. Treat him with kindness." But he couldn't help himself and continued, "Maybe he'll see the light," as the man was led away by real security personnel.

But the biggest inconvenience for the vice president was on the trip back to Andrews Air Force Base when a dangerous weather system spun off from former Hurricane Ivan, forcing Air Force Two to land in Dayton, Ohio. Cheney spent time inside a hangar as the pilots waited for the volatile weather that caused several tornadoes in the Washington, D.C., area to calm down.

The plane spent about 45 minutes on the ground being checked and refueled before continuing home, only a few hours behind schedule.
--Josh Gross