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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


Without the benefit of the Bush campaign's secret game plan, you'd be tempted to think the president would be spending every waking minute between now and Election Day in Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania.

But Tuesday's targets are Wisconsin and Iowa. They're two states he lost in 2000, but by narrow margins. And when taken together and added to New Mexico, their electoral votes total 23, more than enough to cover Mr. Bush should he lose Ohio's 20, a very real possibility.

The latest polls show Mr. Bush running ahead of John Kerry in Wisconsin and Iowa, but still within the margin of error.

The president will take a re-election drive on his campaign bus making stops at rallies in Onalaska, Richland Center, Cuba City and ending up across the border in Dubuque, Iowa, a state where Mr. Bush also campaigned on Monday.

All but one of the counties he's visiting were won four years ago by Al Gore. And a campaign spokesman says Mr. Bush will be reaching out to Catholic Democrats, in the belief he reflects their views better than Kerry.

The main focus of Tuesday's campaign speeches will be the economy. It'll be a new effort by Mr. Bush to portray himself as the tax cutting fiscal conservative and his opponent as the "tax and spend" liberal from Massachusetts.

The president used his speeches in Colorado and Iowa Monday for his harshest swipes yet at his opponent on the issues of Iraq and the war on terrorism.

Take a look at some of the things Mr. Bush said: "On Iraq, my opponent has a strategy of pessimism and retreat... My opponent has the wrong strategy, for the wrong country at the wrong time."

That line throws Kerry's words back at him. Remember he called the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq "the wrong war, in the wrong place and at the wrong time."

Mr. Bush also blasted Kerry for his charge that the U.S. military let Osama bin-Laden get away when they had him in Tora Bora. "Now my opponent throwing out the wild claim that he knew where bin Laden was in 2001 and that the military had chance to get him in Tora Bora. This is an unjustified and harsh criticism of our military commanders in the field... This is the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking and it is what we have come to expect from Senator Kerry. During the last 20 years, in key moments of challenge and decision for America, Senator Kerry has chosen a position of weakness and inaction."

The president also portrayed Kerry as betraying the tradition of past Democratic presidents like FDR and JFK and added a direct appeal to Democrats who may be disenchanted with Kerry: "If you believe that America should lead with strength and purpose and confidence in our ideals, I would be honored to have your support and I ask for your vote."

Also at Bush rallies on Monday, crowds were chanting "Roo-dee, Roo-dee" in honor of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, along to introduce the president at each of the day's events.

At the rally in Davenport, Iowa, the man who's come to be known as "America's Mayor," lavished praise on the president's performance in office saying, "We're stronger than we were before. We're safer than we were before. We have a firm and resolved leader and we're gonna be even more successful in the future."

Not hard to understand why Mr. Bush invited Giuliani and his wife Judith to be guests at the Bush ranch the night before.

And while the president ends the day Tuesday back at the White House, he sets out early on Thursday for campaign stops in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
--Mark Knoller


By Tuesday, Kerry will have campaigned in seven states over the past 48 hours, covering by far the largest swath of land in such a short period of time this year.

He started the day in Green Bay, Wis., where he talked about homeland security in what aides described as his last formal policy speech before the election as the rest of his events are expected to be rallies. Later, Kerry hits Las Vegas for the seventh time this year and then makes his tenth visit to Albuquerque before ending the day in Sioux City, Iowa.

The final week's schedule is already grueling as he will have arrived at his hotel past midnight eastern time the past two nights with early wake up calls both days. The long hours are scheduled to continue the rest of the week, as are the multiple state visits.

On Wednesday, Kerry will travel to Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio; on Thursday, he visits Ohio and Wisconsin before heading to Florida where he'll stay until Saturday.

Kerry's day on Monday began in New Hampshire where he was supposed to focus on women and health care but the news of a missing stockpile of Iraqi explosives altered his message for the day.

In each of his four events, Kerry spent at least five minutes talking about the story and unloading on President Bush, calling him someone "who talks tough" but has "failed to make America safer." Throughout the day at events in New Hampshire, Philadelphia, Warren, Michigan and Green Bay, Wisconsin, he described the administration's policy as "incompetence... blindness... stubbornness..."

By midday, it was obvious that the campaign felt they could seize on this issue as a way to hammer Bush. Kerry not only mentioned it four times but national security adviser Rand Beers issued a printed statement about it, senior adviser Joe Lockhart issued two printed statements and also held a conference call with adviser Susan Rice.

Following Kerry's rally Monday with President Clinton, the game of guessing the crowd count was in full force. Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter e-mailed reporters announcing there were 80,000 to 100,000 at the outdoor event in Philadelphia, citing a count by Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

A follow-up telephone call to the commissioner had him revise his number to "more than 100,000" as he explained there were "at least four" city blocks filled with spectators.

However, while the crowd size seemed like half that to a lot of the reporters in attendance, it's nearly impossible to get an accurate estimate. Perhaps many newspapers had the right idea when they chose not to use the commissioner's number in their stories and instead described the crowd size as "thousands."
--Steve Chaggaris


John Edwards rallied once again with the surprisingly articulate actor Ashton Kutcher in Minneapolis Tuesday morning along with Chris and Andre Heinz. The young set will then launch into a college tour, traveling to campuses in an RV. Other celebrity passengers will include Kirsten Dunst, Alyssa Milano, and the cast of "The OC." Cate Edwards is on her own college tour, speaking at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Edwards will later head to Pennsylvania for rallies in Reading and Wilkes-Barre before going south to Florida.

At his Monday morning Toledo rally, Edwards called the Bush administration "reckless and irresponsible" for failing to safeguard the missing explosives in Iraq. Reading prepared remarks, Edwards declared, "George Bush has failed, he has failed as our commander in chief, he has failed as president."

Edwards also accused National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice of failing to take the matter seriously by choosing to spend the day "in Florida, campaigning for George Bush." He charged, "These people are too busy protecting their own jobs instead of protecting our troops and keeping America safe."

While his running mate pulled out the big guns by campaigning with former President Bill Clinton, Edwards was joined on stage at a Dubuque, Iowa, rally by his own band of big-name backers. In what can only be described as an odd group, movie star and tabloid king, Ashton Kutcher joined forces with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and long-time Delaware Senator Joe Biden in a show of support for the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

"I'm not a politician, but I'm not an idiot either. I just play one on TV," Kutcher joked in his otherwise serious remarks. The actor and former George Bush backer confided to Iowans that he knows what if feels like to be poor. "I know about hard work. I know about working in a factory; I've done it. I know about baling hay, I know about tussling corn for $4.65 an hour," he said, at times nearly choking with emotion.

Citing his sister and 5-year-old niece with no health insurance, his uncle fighting in Iraq, and his grandmother's expensive medication, Kutcher renounced his 2000 vote for the president to cheers from the Dubuque crowd. "Since then, I've realized there's a lot of differences between me and him, and one fundamental difference: I know how to admit when I was wrong," he noted.

"But George W. Bush was right about one thing, even though he said it wrong. You fool me once, shame on you. You fool me twice, you ain't going to fool me twice, shame on you, George Bush and you are not going to fool me again," he shouted.

Kutcher went on to say that the problems the world is facing are "not George Bush's fault; it's mine 'cause I put him there. And it's everybody else's who put him there, put him in the position that he's in." In a play on Kutcher's MTV show, "Punked," where unsuspecting celebrities are fooled into believing some outlandish situation, someone in the audience suggested the actor got "punked" into voting for Bush. Kutcher responded, "Yeah, we got punked."

Debunking rumors that Edwards didn't want to be overshadowed by the young movie star, the two appeared side-by-side for the first time when they deplaned in Minneapolis Monday night.
--Bonney Kapp


Vice President Cheney almost always closes his remarks by complimenting the president on four years of a job well done and then gives a tip of the hat to the U.S. military. In doing so in Wilmington, Ohio, on Monday, though, he may have opened himself to criticism from the Democrats.

While talking about Iraq, Cheney said, "I think it has been a remarkable success story to date when you look at what has been accomplished overall and I think the president deserves credit for it."

Don't be surprised if Senators Kerry or Edwards takes exception to the phrase "remarkable success" as the campaign draws to a close.

Monday also saw Cheney introducing two new arguments against Kerry in his stump speech as he began the final full week of the 2004 election campaign. They were similar to the instant criticism Cheney has often delivered hours after a statement by his opponent. However, while his comments are usually well-crafted pointed attacks, the two debuted on Monday seemed duller than usual.

During opening statements at a town hall meeting in Moorhead, Minn., Cheney cited an article that appeared in Monday's Washington Times that seemed to disprove a statement made by Kerry during the second presidential debate. According to the article, Kerry claimed to have met with members of the U.N. Security Council before casting his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

"A reporter for The Washington Times in a story published just this morning decided to check on Senator Kerry's meeting with the U.N. Security Council. He got hold of five ambassadors on the Security Council, and four of them said, they'd never met Senator Kerry," Cheney told the crowd.

"And an official at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. remarked, we were as surprised as anyone when Senator Kerry starting talking about meeting with the Security Council. It didn't happen," he continued.

At this point, an audience member yelled out that this proved Kerry was a liar. Cheney laughed but made sure nobody misrepresented what was said. "Now the press is going to attribute that to me. It was that guy back there from North Dakota," he joked.

But it was the second attack Cheney leveled where misrepresentation should have been an issue. The vice president attempted to paint Kerry with the "pre-9/11 mind set" brush by citing his now out-of-print book, "The New War," published in 1998.

"Anybody here read the book?" Cheney asked the crowd. "Well, not very many people have, I guess. But in it he talks about Yasser Arafat as a statesman and a role model. Now, I've never looked on Yasser Arafat quite in that light."

Cheney continued, "He talks about the primary answer to terrorism being law enforcement. Now, law enforcement is a part of the answer. But if you think only law enforcement is the way to respond to terror, you've got a pre-9/11 mind set."

Citing a book written before 9/11 and then accusing the author of having a "pre-9/11 mind set" may not be the strongest argument. But it was the reference to Arafat that drew criticism. A Democratic spokesperson quickly issued the statement, "The quotation marks around the term 'role model' are Kerry's own. In no way did this book suggest that Kerry viewed Arafat as a role model. Of the word 'statesman,' there is little doubt that 'role model' was used in sarcastic terms."

The vice president spends the rest of the week moving west through critical battleground states. Tuesday will see him at several stops in Florida before heading toward Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada among others as the final campaign of his life draws to a close.
--Josh Gross

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