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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


While denouncing the ghastly beheadings of U.S. citizens in Iraq, President Bush sounded concerned that the killings may turn more Americans against U.S. involvement there.

Addressing a campaign rally yesterday in Latrobe, Pa., the president said, "We abhor the violence. We can't stand the beheadings. But we're not going to let thugs keep us from doing our duty."

He went on to say: "The terrorists are desperate. They're trying to affect the elections in Iraq. They can't stand the thought of the people of that country voting to decide who their leaders are. They want to impose their dim vision, on the people of that country.

"That's what they're trying to do and that's why you're seeing on your TV screens awful brutality. Those terrorists will not defeat our military. They cannot defeat our military. The only thing they can do is behead people and try to shake our will. They're trying to shake the will of Iraqis. They're trying to convince the Iraqis freedom is not worth it. They're trying to convince the American people that we will not succeed. That's the only weapon they have."

The president also took some new verbal shots at John Kerry's approach to Iraq saying, "You cannot lead the war on terror if you wilt or waver when the times are tough."

He again accused Kerry of sending mixed signals: "Incredibly, this week he said he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today. You cannot lead the war against terror if you wilt or waver when times get tough. You cannot expect the Iraqi people to stand up and do the hard work of democracy if you're pessimistic about their ability to govern themselves. You cannot expect our troops to continue doing the hard work if they hear mixed messages from Washington, D.C. Mixed signals are wrong signals. I'll continue to speak clearly. I'll continue to lead and I'm confident we'll achieve our objectives and the world will be better off."

Iraq On Today's Bush Agenda

The president meets at the White House this morning with Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the interim government of Iraq. The two leaders met Tuesday in New York when both were attending the U.N. General Assembly gathering.

Mr. Bush told one of his rallies yesterday that he can't wait for the American people to hear from Allawi, who asserts that despite the ongoing bloodshed, important progress is being made in Iraq.

After their late morning meeting, the two leaders will hold a joint press availability in the Rose Garden.

Also On Bush's Schedule

The president begins his day attending and addressing the opening ceremony for the National Museum of the American Indian. In some southwest states, Native Americans could be a deciding factor.

Mr. Bush also heads north to Maine for an afternoon republican rally in Bangor. Maine is a state Mr. Bush lost in 2000, by just over 5 percent of the vote. But his parents have a home there, as we know, and the president is unwilling to surrender the state to Kerry.

How Do You Win Debates? Practice, Practice, Practice

The White House let it be known that President Bush will spend the weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, for a few days of preparations and strategy sessions for the first presidential debate next Thursday at the University of Miami.

Spokesman Scott McClellan said, "The president will operate out of Texas for the first debate."
--Mark Knoller


Talk about fortunate timing. John Kerry was belted Wednesday by what he described as a "cold" (even as his aides continued to insist he had merely "strained his throat"). His staff was up late Wednesday shuffling Thursday's schedule – altering Kerry's events in Columbus, Ohio, then sending John Edwards in his place to two previously scheduled events in Iowa. But it's not like Kerry's public itinerary was jam-packed with campaign events from Wednesday until next Thursday's first presidential debate.

Health permitting, Kerry on Friday will resume his regular schedule in Philadelphia with a rally and a flight to Boston where he'll spend Friday and Saturday night. On Sunday, he's off to Wisconsin to virtually isolate himself for debate preparations.

Despite his obvious congestion and scratchy voice on Wednesday, Kerry forged ahead with the one event on his Florida schedule - a town hall meeting in West Palm Beach - as well as visiting a day care center in Orlando in the morning. His illness couldn't change the fact that he needs to make up lost time in the state where three hurricanes prevented him from campaigning there for weeks.

During his town hall meeting, Kerry talked mainly about Iraq, health care and Social Security but he did take some interesting questions from the audience, including one about the draft ("If George Bush were to be is possible? I can't tell you... I will not reinstate the draft.") and one about whether he'd choose women to work in his administration ("I am not somebody who believes in quotas...the government that I put together on your behalf will look like and act like and represent America.").

And even though Kerry's cold caused him to struggle to talk, he still tried to keep a sense of humor.

On President Bush's policies, Kerry quipped, "Yesterday, I was in Orlando right next to Fantasyland. The difference between George Bush and me is that I drove by it. He lives in it."

Later, referring to the war on terror, Kerry said, "Anybody who's thinking about this war has to understand the war on terror was focused on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. You don't hear of him very much - his name from this guy (President Bush) anymore. You know, that old 'wanted dead or alive' routine has become Osama bin Forgotten."
--Steve Chaggaris


While John Edwards was out campaigning in Florida and South Carolina, his colleagues in the U.S. Senate voted to approve the nomination of Rep. Porter Goss as new CIA director. The candidate did give a statement in front of cameras denouncing the Republicans' new ad showing John Kerry windsurfing, but Edwards remained silent on missing the Senate vote.

Spokesman Mark Kornblau told CBS News, "John Kerry and John Edwards do not support George Bush's partisan choice for this serious post, but Porter Goss is not the real issue. The real issue is George Bush's repeated failure to reform our intelligence system and make the American people safe."

Edwards' presence would not have affected the outcome of the vote, so instead he stuck with his busy campaign schedule, hitting state number 34 since being named Kerry's running mate. But it's unlikely the candidate's presence in South Carolina, the state where he was born, will affect the outcome of November's vote.

The miles Edwards logged in the state may have paid off during the primaries – it was the only primary Edwards won – but the president holds a healthy 12-point lead over Kerry in the American Research Group's latest South Carolina poll out Wednesday.

"Boy it's good to be back in South Carolina, I'll tell you that," Edwards told supporters in Columbia. Possibly realizing strong rhetoric would not go over well in this red state, Edwards' speeches at his rally and $750,000 fundraiser were less about George Bush and Dick Cheney as they were about the "values" he learned growing up.

"The truth is what most people care about in this state are the same things I grew up learning about-faith, family, hard work and responsibility," he said. "For me that's what this election is about at the end of the day. I want to see the same chances that I had growing up, the same opportunities for everybody," he continued.

Edwards was originally scheduled to fly home to Washington after his events in South Carolina, but because his voice-weary running mate needed a stand in, he headed off to Iowa instead. "He's lost his voice for a day or so, so I'm going to go to Iowa and do his events tomorrow," Edwards said in an interview with Larry King. "We're in this foxhole fighting for our country together, and we're going to keep fighting."
--Bonney Kapp


The debate over Federal judicial nominations does not garner many headlines compared to issue like terrorism, taxes or health care, but it has been a constant focus of vice president Cheney's campaign speeches for months. Outside the attacks on John Kerry and the trumpeting of the Bush administration's successes in the war on terror, it is one of the few issues that the vice president addresses in nearly every speech.

Cheney preps the topic by ticking off an array of issues that usually draw excited agreement from the friendly Republican audiences – prohibiting partial birth abortion, supporting the Second Amendment and keeping "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Impressing upon the crowd that he and the President will defend their rights and values, he says "There shouldn't be any question about this -- and there wouldn't be if we had more reasonable judges on the federal bench."

He will chastise Democratic senators, including opponents John Kerry and John Edwards, for using the filibuster to block President Bush's nominations, often labeling these potential judges as "sensible" and "mainstream".

He finishes with a rally cry for the party faithful. Last week in Reno, Nevada, he said, "What the Democrats are doing is outrageous, and that's why we need to send more Republicans to the United States Senate."

The set up was no different on Tuesday, when the Cheney spoke in Wauseon, Ohio near Toledo. This time, however, the vice president called out Democrats and said he recognized the game they were playing. "They're hoping to wait the president out. But I've got news for them: that's not going to happen. We're going to win this election!"

If Cheney seems particularly fixated on the subject of judicial nominations it's because the topic has personally affected him. On July 20, 2004 the Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block the vote on Bill Myers, a friend to the Vice President.

"Recently, they used their obstructionist tactics to keep the Senate from voting on Bill Myers, a fine man from my part of the country," he told an audience in Ohio on Monday. "If Bill had made it to an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, he had the votes to be confirmed to the Ninth Circuit, which, by the way, is the circuit that decided we should not say 'under God' when we pledge allegiance to the flag."

The Ninth Circuit decides most of the federal appeals for the West Coast. Not only did it decide the recent Pledge of Allegiance case, but it has handled other high profile issues like assisted suicide, legal marijuana, and California's three strikes sentencing law. The Ninth Circuit also hears many cases concerning the environment, most recently granting an injunction to stop a deal between the government and the timber industry to harvest a forest in Oregon burned in a wildfire.

The debate over Myers' nomination in the Senate was especially bitter. As a lawyer from Idaho, he had frequent contact with mining and ranching groups, which drew particular criticism from environmentalist throughout the West. The nomination needed 60 votes to break the filibuster and Myers lost 53-44. Neither John Kerry nor John Edwards voted.

The vote brought criticism from the White House. President Bush issued a statement saying, "I continue to call on the minority in the Senate to stop playing politics with the American judicial system and give judicial nominees the fair treatment they deserve and the American people expect."

The vice president agrees. He often closes his argument with a punch line that always draws cheers form the crowd: If the Ninth Circuit is going to rule against saying "under God" in the Pledge, then it "sounds to me like they could use some new judges on the Ninth Circuit!"
--Josh Gross

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