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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Beth Lester, Lauren Glasser, Lucy Kafanov and Allen Alter from the CBS News Political and Campaign Units have the latest.

Monday's Headlines

* Poll Watch

* Bush in Battle Creek

* Kerry on Guns

* Kerry Prepares for Debates

* Cheney Hits Middle America:

* Edwards Heads West by Southwest

* Bush to Give Republicans $1 Million

Poll Watch: A new set of polls released over the weekend show that President George W. Bush continues to hold his post-convention lead, although the margins vary. Even Democracy Corps, a Democratic-backed polling firm, has Bush three points ahead of Sen. John Kerry, although that margin makes the race a statistical dead heat.

With the convention bounce appearing sustained, Dan Balz of The Washington Post reports that, "as the number of truly competitive states has shrunk, Kerry is faced with the reality that he must pick off one of two big battlegrounds Bush won four years ago -- Florida or Ohio -- or capture virtually every other state still available. To do that, he must hold onto several states Al Gore won in 2000 that are now highly competitive."

Following are the new national numbers:

TIME: (857 interviews of likely voters)
Bush: 52%
Kerry: 41%
Nader: 3%
Don't Know: 3%
(Interviews conducted September 7 - 9)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 4 points.

Newsweek: (1,003 interviews of registered Voters)
Registered Voters:
Bush: 49%
Kerry: 43%
Nader: 2%
Undecided: 6%
(Interviews conducted September 9-10)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 4 points.

Associated Press:

Likely Voters: (899 interviews of likely voters)
Bush: 51%
Kerry: 46%
Nader: 1%
(Interviews conducted September 7 - 9)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 points

Registered Voters: (1,286 interviews of registered voters)
Bush: 51%
Kerry: 43%
(Interviews conducted September 7 - 9)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 points.

Democracy Corps: (1,004 interviews of likely voters)
Note: Democracy Corps is run by Democratic Pollsters.

Bush: 48%
Kerry: 45%
Nader: 4%
Undecided: 3%
(Interviews conducted September 6 - 9)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 points.

Bush in the Battle Creek Battleground: Campaigning in Michigan on Monday, the President's focus is on healthcare during his bus tour with stops in Muskegon, Holland and Battle Creek. CBS News' Mark Knoller reports:

Knoller Nugget: After taking the weekend off at Camp David, his 84th visit there since taking office, President Bush returns to the campaign trail with a two-day swing that takes him to Michigan, Colorado and Nevada.

Bush hops back on the Bush-Cheney campaign bus for three events in the Wolverine State. First stop is Muskegon, where the president will address what his campaign is billing as a "Focus on Health" rally.

Mr. Bush will repeat his pledge to make quality health care more accessible and affordable. He'll again call for letting small businesses join together to purchase health care insurance for their workers at the discounts big companies get. He'll again promise to expand health savings accounts - and to ensure that every poor county in the U.S. has a community health center.

And he will denounce John Kerry's plan as an effort to nationalize health care and accuse him of siding with trial lawyers whose frivolous lawsuits are driving some doctors out of business and raising the cost of health care.

The Kerry campaign was out with its counter-attack Sunday night, saying health care costs have jumped 64 percent during the Bush administration. Further, a Kerry spokesman says "the two centerpieces of the Bush plan -- Health Savings Accounts and Associated Health Plans - actually raise health care costs for most families and small businesses."

Viewing Mr. Bush as vulnerable on the health care issue, the Kerry campaign also renewed its call for him to allow Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canada, where price controls make them less expensive.

The White House says it's studying the issue to make sure medicines from abroad would be safe. The Kerry campaign says it's a ruse to side with pharmaceutical companies who would rather sell their products at higher prices in America.

Mr. Bush also does Michigan rallies today in Holland and Battle Creek.

The president lost Michigan in 2000 by 5.13 percent, but has been staging an aggressive effort to win the state by reaching out to independents and those Mr. Bush calls "discerning democrats." Monday marks Mr. Bush's 21st visit to Michigan, and the 9th this year.

Bush ends the day in Colorado, where he spends the night before a rally there Tuesday followed by a stop in Las Vegas where he'll address the National Guard Association and trumpet his own service in the Guard, about which new questions are still being raised.

On another issue, that of Russian terrorism, On returning from Camp David Sunday, the President and Mrs. Bush paid a condolence call at the Russian Embassy. Mr. Bush offered "my country's heart-felt sympathies" for the victims of the terrorist siege last week at that school in south Russia.

The president said "the atrocities that took place in the school were beyond comprehension." He said "The United States stands side-by-side with Russia as we fight off terrorism."

Kerry on Guns: Touching a subject his campaign has generally avoided, John Kerry is going after George W. Bush on an issue that some think hurt Al Gore four years ago: guns. In a speech in Washington, D.C., Monday, Kerry criticized Bush for letting the ten-year old ban on assault weapons expire.

"Ten years ago today, with the leadership of police officers all across the country, we passed a tough crime bill to protect America," Kerry said according to prepared remarks sent to CBS News. "George Bush made a choice today. He chose his powerful friends in the gun lobby over the police officers and the families he promised to protect. The president made the wrong choice. When I am president, we will set America in a new direction with a plan to fight crime and keep our communities safer."

Kerry also picked up the endorsement of the National Association of Police Organizations on Monday and announced a new a new anti-crime agenda. Camp Kerry says the initiative is "fully paid for" and includes more police officers on the beat (Kerry claims Bush has not fully funded the COPS program), reauthorizing the assault weapons ban, fighting gang violence, cutting methamphetamine trafficking, more community prosecutors and changes in the probation/parole system.

For his part, the president says he favors renewal of the assault weapons ban but without any expansion as favored by some Democrats. Bush has said he would sign a bill renewing the ban if Congress passed one. Critics note he has done nothing to push Congress in that direction.

Kerry Prepares for Debates: John Kerry has been spending a bit of time lately preparing for the upcoming debates. The Washington Post reports that Kerry has tapped former Gore Chief of Staff Ron Klain to head his debate prep team and that advisers Bob Shrum and Jonathan Winer are heavily involved.

Kerry stayed in his Georgetown home on Sunday and is still in D.C. on Monday. CBS News' Steve Chaggaris reports:

Trail Byte: Senator Kerry is spending most of Monday in Washington, D.C., speaking about the expiration of the assault weapons ban before heading to Wisconsin tonight. Over the weekend, he spent Sunday in the confines of his Georgetown house as the press was on standby, waiting for the senator to possibly enjoy the perfect late summer day outside. Alas, he stayed indoors.

On September 11, Kerry attended a commemoration ceremony in Boston before speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner Saturday evening where he took President Bush to task in front of the Kerry-friendly audience.

"This president came to office calling himself a 'compassionate conservative,'" Kerry said before invoking the Bible.

"You know the story as well as I do, the story of the Good Samaritan, the story of two men who pass by or crossed to the other side of the street when they come upon a man who was robbed and beaten. They felt compassion, but there were no deeds. And then the Good Samaritan... gave both his heart and his help," he continued.

"It is clear... for four years, this president has talked about compassion, but he's walked right by. He's seen people in need, but he's crossed over to the other side of the street," added Kerry, drawing the ire of Bush-Cheney regional campaign chairman/former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed, who complained that 9/11 should be free of political attacks.

"John Kerry's use of the parable of the Good Samaritan to condemn the President on the third anniversary of the September 11th attacks crosses a line that is sad to witness," Reed said in a statement, pointing out that, prior to Kerry's speech, politicians "had refrained from political bickering on the anniversary of that tragic day.

"It is upsetting to see Senator Kerry break that unspoken observance, and sad too that he would choose to use people's faith to do so," he continued.

In addition to irking the religious right, Kerry preached to the mostly African-American audience, invoking Florida's voting problems in 2000.

"We are not going to stand by and allow another million African-American votes go uncounted in this election. We are not going to stand by and allow acts of voter suppression. And we're hearing those things already.

"What they did in Florida in 2000, some say they may be planning to do this year in battleground states all across this country. Well, we're here to let them know we will fight tooth and nail to make sure that this time, every vote is counted and every vote counts."

Cheney Hits Middle America: On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne attend a town hall meeting rally in Otumwa, Iowa and a rally in Beaver, West Virginia. He ended last week in Wisconsin, pushing every local button. CBS News' Josh Gross reports:

Trail Byte: Vice President Cheney traded in the political meat grinder for a real meat grinder when he delivered a speech and toured the Johnsonville Sausage factory in Sheboygan Falls as part of a bus tour of eastern Wisconsin on Friday.

He made two additional planned stops in Green Bay and Milwaukee plus two unplanned stops to take advantage of attractions that are distinctly Wisconsin: the Packers' Lambeau Field and a Kopp's Frozen Custard restaurant.

Cheney began his day having coffee with local supporters at the Golden Basket, a Green Bay diner (open seven days a week, even holidays!). Around the large table sat religious leaders, veterans and local business owners and, to the vice president's right, Packers quarterback legend Bart Starr. The group discussed several topics, including lower and simpler taxes and the president's faith-based initiatives.

On the subject of terrorism, the vice president took advantage of his proximity to the Hall of Famer Starr and made an oft-referenced football analogy. "It's a little bit like football, Bart, a good defense isn't enough, we got to go on offense," he said. "And that has been the key to the president's strategy."

After paying for his coffee and tip (an undisclosed amount, according to the waitress), the vice president shook hands with the patrons before meeting the restaurant's owner. This led to an awkward moment when the proprietor chanted "four more years" directly into the vice president's face. This is not the first time (and doubtful the last) someone has taken the favorite cheer of the campaign and turned it into an odd one-on-one moment. Cheney usually smiles and quickly moves on.

On the way to the sausage factory, the motorcade pulled over at Lambeau Field so the vice president and several members of his staff could get a personal tour of the Packers' Hall of Fame and gift store from Starr. Although there was no confirmation about exact purchases, several large, yellow foam hats were seen through the windshield of the vice president's bus. As the old saying goes, "when in Green Bay, do as the Cheeseheads."

In Sheboygan Falls, Cheney was given a personal tour of the sausage factory before conducting a town hall meeting for Johnsonville Sausage employees and GOP supporters. He was asked to respond to complaints that the war with Iraq was based on oil.

"Anybody who would suggest that we'd be there for the oil, I think doesn't understand the basic fundamental decision that the president had to make," he rebutted. "If we were interested, for example, in oil, we would have stayed in Saudi Arabia. We didn't. We pulled most of our forces out of Saudi Arabia. They're no longer there -- don't need to be there."

He continued by saying the terrorists brought the war to us. "The bottom line is that we're there for the safety and security of the nation, and our friends and allies around the world. We didn't do anything to provoke the attack of 9/11. We were attacked by the terrorists, and we've responded forcefully and aggressively. And that's exactly what we need to do if we're going to guarantee the safety and security of our kids and grandkids."

The day ended in Milwaukee with another town hall event. When asked by a college Republican how to best defeat liberal thinking, the vice president simply responded, "By electing George W. Bush."

Edwards Heads West by Southwest: John Edwards hits four states Monday, beginning with a town hall meeting in Santa Fe, N.M., where the senator is expected to speak about health care. Edwards will then hold rallies in Tucson and Reno before heading to Portland, Oregon. CBS News' Bonney Kapp reports:

Trail Byte: Senator Edwards attended the Congressional Black Caucus' annual prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C., Saturday morning, where the candidate was introduced by the group's president, Elijah Cummings. "We realize you have a difficult road ahead, but always know that you have some prayer warriors in the house," Cummings said in political solidarity.

With no overt mention of that "difficult road ahead" that culminates on November 2nd, Edwards gave a sermon-like speech on the third anniversary of the September 11th attacks. "It is never just an anniversary; it is a time of renewal for each and every one of us to do God's work here on earth, so walk with me through this day," he said with somber and measured delivery.

From his Saturday sermon of remembrance to a Sunday church service, Edwards spoke to parishioners from the pulpit of Canton, North Carolina's First Baptist Church. After touring the town's flood-damaged streets, the state's senator told churchgoers he was "pleased" with the disaster relief money he helped secure for the region, but continued, "I want to say to all of you that this is in no way any kind of political issue."

"The truth is though that there's only so much human beings can do and we're reminded of that when a disaster like this strikes," Edwards told the worshipers. "I know all of you will join us in prayer because at the end of the day, it is only our Lord and Savior who can help us under circumstances like this," he continued.

Edwards the politician returned later Sunday in Detroit, where he reacted to Secretary of State Colin Powell's admission that he sees no link between Saddam Hussein and September 11th. Asking that the president and vice president "never suggest that there is" a connection again, Edwards promised the Democratic ticket would win the war on terrorism without "scaring the American people or dividing the American people."

When asked by reporters to explain recent polls that show the American people still prefer a President Bush to a President Kerry when dealing with the war, Edwards responded, "I think that what's happened is, and it's not unusual is, anytime America's at war, the American people naturally rally around whoever the president is under those circumstances."

With 50 days until the election, what's the Democrats' game plan to win that support? According to Edwards, the debates will show voters "a very clear contrast" between the two parties that will give the Kerry/Edwards ticket the edge.

Bush to Give Leftovers to GOP: Working to fortify Republican control of Congress, President Bush pledged to transfer $1 million to the Republican House and Senate committees, with each committee pledging to match Bush's donation, Roll Call reports.

Roll Call reports that some GOP officials thought Bush could have donated a larger sum, especially as Sen. John F. Kerry donated $3 million to the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees on Tuesday.

"I'm surprised President Bush would want to be two-upped by John Kerry," an anonymous GOP official recently told Roll Call.

The funds to be distributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will come from Bush's primary campaign account, which contained $242,017,981 as of July 31, according to Campaign finance laws allow both candidates unlimited distribution of primary funds to national party committees.

Bush is not alone in his efforts to strengthen the Republican stronghold on Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney and first lady Laura Bush have both campaigned and raised money on behalf of various Republican House and Senate candidates.

Quote of the Day: "I love Bill Clinton. I think we should make him king. I'm talking the red robe, the turkey leg – everything." --Country singer and Tennessee Senate hopeful Tim McGraw. (Time)

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