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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Beth Lester, Clothilde Ewing and Sean Sharifi of the CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.


Friday's Headlines

* Return on Investment?

* Battleground-a-rama: Bush, Kerry, and Cheney Head to Pittsburgh

* Kerry Media Team's Growing Pains

* Hell Hath No Fury

Campaign Ads Not a Great Investment Yet: The conventional wisdom is that television advertising is one of the most effective ways that campaigns can communicate with potential voters. But a new Associated Press poll shows that the $60 million already spent on advertising in swing states this year has failed to move very many voters.

The AP poll (conducted April 5–7, margin of error 3 percent) shows that in a hypothetical contest between President Bush, John Kerry and Ralph Nader, "Bush was backed by 45 percent of voters and Kerry by 44 percent in the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Independent candidate Ralph Nader had 6 percent support." The key issue is that "the numbers are essentially unchanged from AP-Ipsos polls taken in early and mid-March." Thus television advertising this cycle looks like it has not changed the minds of enough voters to be statistically significant.

But lest TV executives everywhere worry, there is evidence that something else on television is moving voters: news from Iraq. As the AP writes, "While the presidential race hasn't changed significantly, public opinion has shifted in some areas after a week of growing violence in Iraq. Asked whether the military action in Iraq has increased or decreased the threat of terrorism around the world, half in the poll, 49 percent, said it has increased the threat, while 28 percent said it has decreased the threat. The number of people who thought the Iraq situation increased the terrorism threat grew slightly from Monday through Wednesday as the poll was conducted." In mid-February, the numbers were much more even, with 38 percent on each side.

Bush, Cheney and Kerry Head to Heinz Country: President Bush will appear at an April 19 fundraiser for Sen. Arlen Specter in what will be his 27th trip to Pennsylvania since the 2000 election. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that though the White House has yet to confirm the appearance, local Republicans have been notified to expect him.

The president's visit will culminate a weekend of high-profile political visits to the city beginning next Friday. Sen. John Kerry will be in Pittsburgh April 15 to raise money and greet supporters, while Vice President Dick Cheney will appear at the National Rifle Association convention on April 17.

Bush lost Pennsylvania, and its 21 electoral votes, to Al Gore in the 2000 election by about 200,000 votes. This will be Kerry's first visit to the state since clinching the Democratic nomination.

Growing Pains: A behind-the-scenes look into a contract dispute with one of John Kerry's chief media consultants "offers a glimpse into the machinery and growing pains of a presidential campaign as it switches from a primary to a general-election footing," reports the New York Times.

In addition to his message, of course, Kerry's ads have often been credited with his come-from-behind win in Iowa. And so it came as a surprise that Jim Margolis, a chief consultant behind those ads, would significantly reduce his role in the general election because of a contract dispute.

So, what was behind the situation? Money and power, of course. People on both sides of the dispute agree that campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill's desire to cut back on costs, precipitated Margolis lessening role. Cahill reportedly wanted to reduce the rate of commissions going out to media firms, knowing that the campaign would be spending millions of dollars more on advertising than it had initially anticipated, sources told the Times.

The Kerry campaign had paid its two main advertising firms – Margolis' GMMB and Bob Shrum's firm, Shrum, Devine & Donilon – not only equal, but relatively modest rates before Cahill's decision to reduce rates, according to the Times. And, rather than set the new pay structure herself, Cahill left it to the firms to work out themselves. But the details of the deal also point to the growing influence of Shrum, Kerry's senior strategist.

The Times reports, "Mr. Margolis, these people said, was unhappy with the terms that Mr. Shrum proposed. That proposal gave Mr. Shrum's firm a far larger share of the smaller commission rate, the notion being that his two partners, Mike Donilon and Tad Devine, were also senior advisers to Mr. Kerry, whereas Mr. Margolis was the only senior partner in his firm who was so closely involved … Frustrated by the impasse, Mr. Margolis decided to walk away from the creative work, although he will continue buying advertising time for the campaign. Mr. Margolis' allies say they believe the deliberations were devised by the campaign leadership to leave him no choice, giving Mr. Shrum still more power over the message machine."

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Candidate Scorned?: Supporters of Colorado Senate candidate Bob Schaffer are livid with Gov. Bill Owens, reports the Rocky Mountain News. Owens had endorsed Schaffer in his quest to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse-Campbell. But rumors that beer mogul Peter Coors will enter the race now have Owens wavering in his support. An angry Schaffer spokeswoman, Elizabeth Blackney, told the News on Thursday, "We are shocked at the duplicitous nature that appears to be revealing itself."

Coors himself has not officially entered the race. The News reports, "Coors continued to keep a low profile Thursday, but his backers and several Republican sources said he was 'definitely in' the race and making plans for an announcement early next week." But even with no real candidate and no official endorsement switch from the governor, the sparks are flying.

When Blackney was pressed by the News to be more clear, she said, "It does appear to be very duplicitous. Had the governor been uncomfortable, he should have told Bob that instead of promising his endorsement. But we are more than willing to give him and his staff the benefit of the doubt. It has been a very interesting primary season."

That, officially, is an understatement.

Quote of the Day: "I've listened to people for a long time referring to George W. Bush as 43. I didn't really know what it meant until now. I've figured it out. It's his approval rating, ladies and gentlemen." --Sen. John Kerry, who, apparently, had not seen CBS News's latest poll which shows Bush's approval rating at 49 percent.

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