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Washington Wrap

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Dotty Lynch, Beth Lester, Allison Davis, Nicole Yinger, Lucy Kafanov and Allen Alter from the CBS News Political and Campaign '04 Units have the latest political news from Washington and from the trail.

Tuesday's Headlines

* Kerry Makes Another Staff Change

* Bush Returns to National Guard

* Cheney in Arkansas and (Once Again)West Virginia

* Edwards in Oregon and W. Va., Too

* Nader Back on Florida Ballot

* Primaries Held in Eight States and D.C.

Kerry Goes After Bush and Makes Another Staff Change: CBS News has learned that former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry will go on the trail with Kerry. And Joe Lockhart, the other former Clinton press secretary, who joined the Kerry campaign a couple of weeks ago, will take a broader strategic role at the Kerry HQ.

Displaying a continuing aggressiveness, Kerry will go after President Bush on Tuesday, hammering him on Medicare. According to Camp Kerry, "John Kerry is going to go after George Bush for putting seniors second and the special interests that squeeze them first. Bush has spent the last four years doing favors for HMOs, drug and insurance companies instead of making the needs of seniors a priority. As a result, seniors are being squeezed more than ever by rising costs and low income."

Kerry's slam is expected to come in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at a "conversation with seniors" at St. Ann's Intergenerational Care Facility. His speech will be peppered with references to "That's W and that's wrong – wrong choices, wrong direction, wrong leadership for America," according to prepared remarks obtained by CBS News.

In other news from Kerry world, the candidate travels later to Toledo, Ohio, for a town hall meeting on… healthcare. The event at the Chester J. Zablocki Senior Center will undoubtedly give Kerry another chance to declare Bush wrong.

CBS News' Steve Chaggaris reports on the road with Kerry:

Trail Byte: On Monday afternoon - 50 days before the election – John Kerry held one campaign event in the morning, filmed some ads at his Georgetown home and visited his Washington, D.C., campaign headquarters to give a pep talk to staffers.

As some accuse his campaign of floundering and possibly squandering the chance to beat President Bush, Kerry told his staff he knows how hard they are working and reminded them that they're "in the final stretch" and they "should all remember why this is important," according to a campaign official.

Spotted on Kerry's campaign plane on Monday night's flight from Washington, D.C., to Milwaukee was new traveling adviser John Sasso, who was on the road last week but has been absent since Thursday evening.

Keep an eye on Kerry on Tuesday to see if he tightens up his remarks - something he had done beginning on Labor Day but, coincidentally or not, he slipped away from after Sasso dropped off at the end of the week.

For most of last week, with his adviser watching and critiquing, Kerry's speeches were concise, and they rarely broke the 30-minute mark. On Friday, without any supervision, Kerry drifted - speaking for 31 minutes at the beginning of a town hall meeting in St. Louis (his opening remarks at town halls earlier in the week were half that) and 36 minutes at an Allentown, Pennsylvania rally.

This inconsistency is just one example of the seeming lack of urgency in Kerry's campaign. Another is a look at his schedule. On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, Kerry held exactly three public events, only one being a campaign-organized event. And a glance at his upcoming schedule suggests he'll be taking it easy next weekend as well.

Perhaps Camp Kerry truly believes there's plenty of time, given his history of pulling out victories when things looked bleak.

Let's turn back the clock and check out how Kerry was looking 50 days before his two heralded come-from-behind political victories: the 2004 Iowa Caucuses and his 1996 Senate race.

November 30, 2003: Two Zogby polls taken over the next couple of days showed Kerry down 17 points to Howard Dean in Iowa and down 30 points in New Hampshire.

The Boston Globe had just written, "His campaign on the ropes, Kerry has gone the way of all Bob Shrum candidates. ... He has entered the great consultancy cocoon ... Kerry's speech is underwhelming: Sometimes trite, often contrived, sometimes just plain dopey."

September 16, 1996: Polls between Kerry and Massachusetts Gov. William Weld were described as "a dead heat" and "too close to call." Following a debate between the two that evening, Democratic consultant Michael Goldberg told the Quincy Patriot-Ledger that for the final stretch, "Kerry needs to be the best he's been."

Sound familiar? We'll know in seven weeks if he'll be able to pull it out one final time in the ultimate contest of his political career.

Bush Returns to the National Guard: President Bush is in the battleground state of Nevada addressing the National Guard Association on Tuesday. He has stayed clear of the controversy surrounding documents obtained by CBS News about his service and is not expected to talk about them today.

On Monday, however, Laura Bush chimed in, telling Radio Iowa, "You know, they probably are altered and they probably are forgeries and I think that's terrible, really."

The DNC is marking Bush's speech with the launch of "Operation Fortunate Son," a video contrasting Kerry and Bush's service during Vietnam. CBS News' Mark Knoller is on the trail with the president:

Knoller Nugget: The president expects to be among friends Tuesday in Las Vegas when he addresses the annual convention of the National Guard Association of the United States. A spokesman says Mr. Bush will express pride in having served in the Texas Air National Guard, but will not address recent questions about whether he fully completed all his service obligations.

Documents obtained by CBS News purport to show that in 1973, then-Lt. Bush was suspended from flight duty for failing to undergo a required physical. The veracity of those documents has been called into question.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan Monday again dismissed the allegations as "old, recycled attacks" orchestrated by "Democrats and the Kerry campaign."

Mr. Bush will pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of Guard personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, he'll acknowledge the added hardships those personnel are bearing as a result of their call-ups to active duty.

It was four years ago this day that then-candidate Bush addressed the same group, though by satellite and not in person. He said his "first order of business" as president would be to renew "the bond of trust between the commander-in-chief and the men and women in uniform."

But some military families feel that bond has been betrayed. A group calling itself "Military Families Speak Out" will use a news conference today in Las Vegas to make the case that National Guard soldiers who signed up to "stay at home and serve their country" were sent overseas by Mr. Bush "to fight a war based on lies."

Before heading to Vegas, the president does a campaign rally in Colorado, a state he won by a healthy margin four years ago.

On Monday, during his 12th campaign bus trip (this one through western Michigan), President Bush launched some new attacks on John Kerry's proposals for expanding health insurance coverage to those who don't have it.

"I'm running against a fella who's put out a health care plan that is massive, it is complicated, it is a blueprint to have the government control your healthcare," said Mr. Bush at the second of three rallies.

Citing a study by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank, the president charged the Kerry plan would cost taxpayers $1.5-trillion over ten years.

"That's just the kind of plan you'd expect from a Senator from Massachusetts," Mr. Bush said to cheers from his supportive audience. Similar charges are being made in a new Bush campaign TV ad unveiled Monday.

The president again touted his own, more modest proposals for making health care more available and affordable:

  • Let small businesses join together to obtain health coverage for their
    employees at the same discounted rates as big companies.
  • Government aid to help low-income Americans establish Health Savings Accounts to purchase a health insurance policy.
  • A billion dollar program to help enroll eligible children in existing
    health care programs.
  • Establish a community health center in every poor county in America.

    President Bush also says health care costs would be brought down if limits were placed on what he regards as frivolous lawsuits filed against doctors and hospitals.

    And on the subject of healthy living, is there such a thing as the Snack Vote? It's food for thought, but President Bush seems to be making a play for it.

    On just about every campaign bus trip he takes, Mr. Bush stops at some kind of snack shop for a bite to eat. He's done ribs, bear claws, popcorn and frozen custard, among other tasty items.

    Monday's Michigan bus caravan was no exception. On the way to his event in Holland, Michigan, the big, armored, red-white-and-blue Bush-Cheney campaign bus pulled up in front of "Captain Sundae," a local ice cream stand that bills itself as the "Home of the Famous Tommy the Turtle." Mr. Bush was seen to purchase a caramel-and-chocolate concoction that well may have been Tommy - or a close relative.

    Cheney in Arkansas and West Virginia: Vice President Cheney goes to Blytheville, Arkansas, and Clarksburg, West Virginia, on Tuesday. CBS News's Josh Gross, who has been all over the country with the VP, has some interesting observations about Cheney's propensity to link of other tragedies to the 9/11 attacks:

    Trail Byte: Misplaced in the media tempest of last week's "wrong choice" speech in Des Moines were the vice president's comments on the Russian school hostage siege and killing. He was quick to draw the tragedy in Baslan into the fraternity of cities affected by terrorism.

    "Well, they'll probably come after us more than anybody else just because of who we are and what we believe, but just look at what has transpired around the world since 9/11 with the attacks in Madrid, in Casablanca, in Mombassa, in Istanbul, in Riyadh, in Bali, in Jakarta, and most recently, of course, in Baslan, in Russia, this week where they slaughtered hundreds of school children," he said last Tuesday.

    Of all the members of the Bush administration who speak publicly on a regular basis, Vice President Cheney is one who usually connects the al Qaeda attacks on 9/11 to other terrorist attacks around the world as well as to the war in Iraq.

    "We don't yet know exactly what the relationship is between the groups that launched that attack and whether or not al Qaeda is involved. That jury is still out on all of that. The Russians seem to think there may be some connections there," he continued last week.

    Drawing a parallel between the attacks against American interests and a decades-long separatist movement in Russia may raise some eyebrows. The vice president looked to clarify the comments on Monday during a town hall meting in Ottumwa, Iowa.

    Asked about Russia's reaction and its willingness to cooperate with our war on terror, the vice president responded, "I think a lot of our European friends have been somewhat ambivalent about this whole proposition with respect to how we deal with these terrorist attacks. I think some had hoped that if the kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit."

    He then added, "I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. That Russia, of course, did not support us in Iraq, they did not get involved with sending troops there. They got hit anyway."

    The Cheney campaign says the comments were intended to counter the argument that some countries made before the war in Iraq: that being part of the coalition might invite future attacks. Russia steered clear of any involvement in the war and yet the nation was still subject to terrorism.

    Cheney's speeches over the last few weeks have been heavy with comments on the war on terrorism and his opinion that it truly a global war against "those who resort to terror to try achieve their political objectives." The horrible incident in Russia bolsters his argument, or so Cheney obviously believes.

    Edwards in Oregon and West Virginia, Too: On Tuesday, John Edwards gets endorsed by "outdoor gear" CEOs in Portland today before a town hall meeting and a fundraiser. The group of CEOs is from companies such as Patagonia, Columbia Sportswear, and Mountain Gear. Following the West Coast events, Edwards hops a four-hour flight to West Virginia, where he'll arrive at his hotel at an estimated 12:45 a.m.

    CBS News' Bonney Kapp reports on his trip to the Southwest:

    Trail Byte: When introducing John Edwards at a Santa Fe town hall event, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declared his state would vote Democratic. "These little poll numbers that are out there are temporary," he reassured supporters Monday. On Election Day is when the "people will speak," he added.

    Although most polls indicate the possibility that the Democrats could carry New Mexico, Edwards' next stop, in Tucson, Arizona, was in a state expected to vote Republican. The latest Arizona Republic Poll shows Bush/Cheney leading Kerry/Edwards by a margin of 16%. Republicans are so confident of victory in the state that the Arizona GOP released a statement calling Edwards' stop part of a "farewell tour."

    Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva acknowledged the statement in his introduction of the senator. "This is the beginning of a tour here in Arizona-- a tour that says to our friends and neighbors, you ain't seen nothing yet," he said through deafening applause. "We're going to take this state," he added.

    When Edwards took to the stage, he pumped up the 10,000-strong crowd (his biggest to date at a solo event) by continuing with the theme. "We're going to give George Bush a farewell tour."

    Pundits and pollsters may be ready to color Arizona red at this 50-day mark, but an Edwards campaign official cautions the KE04 organization in the state is "underestimated." Despite the bleak poll numbers, state staffers are confident that, if the election were held today, Kerry and Edwards would win. According to one staffer, "It's very familiar for us" to be in this position, referring to Kerry's position pre-Iowa caucus and added that the campaign's internal polling shows a much closer race than recent public polls.

    In the coming weeks, expect Edwards to continue to hold the administration's "feet to the fire," according to the campaign, by pointing out the "clear choices" as he did near the conclusion of his Monday evening rally in Reno, Nevada.

    "The question is, do you want a president, like this president, who's going to fight for more tax cuts for multi millionaires? Or do you want a president who'll actually fight for tax cuts for the middle class? When it comes to healthcare - do you want a president who's going to stand with the HMOs and insurance companies and drug companies of America? Or do you want a president who will get up every day fighting for healthcare for you? Do you want a president who deals with the rest of the world with a go it alone policy that drives away our friends and allies? Or instead, do you want a president who will be strong who will be aggressive, who will keep the American people safe and who will make sure once again America's respected in the world?"

    Edwards will continue to pose these questions. Voters will respond in less than two month.

    Nader Back on Florida Ballot: Ralph Nader is back on the Florida presidential ballot on Monday after Republican Secretary of State Glenda Hood appealed a judge's temporary decision to keep the candidate's name off the ballot. Meanwhile, lawyers for the Democratic Party, Florida and Nader called for emergency hearings to settle the dispute over whether the candidate will be allowed on the ballot.

    Last week, Democrats were successful in getting Judge Kevin Davey of Circuit Court to agree that the Reform Party now backing Nader was no longer a legitimate national party. The State Supreme Court said on Monday that it would hear the case, as requested, but would wait until Judge Davey made a final ruling on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press.

    According to the Miami Herald, infuriated Democrats have accused Hood, an appointee of Governor Jeb Bush, of partisan politicking in his attempts to keep Nader off the ballot. "Jeb Bush has turned the elections office into a campaign and legal arm of the Republican Party and unabashedly so," said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox.

    Hood has denied claims of partisanship.

    Primary Day: There are primaries in eight states on Tuesday. All eight (New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island) will chose candidates for the U.S. House of Representative. New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin hold their U.S. Senate primaries. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington are also holding gubernatorial primaries.

    There are also primaries Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is trying to make a comeback in a race to represent Ward 8 on the D.C. City Council.

    Quote of the Day: "Kitty Kelley is a discredited purveyor of trash. She smeared the Reagan family and now she is peddling garbage about the current first family." --Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt with a rather unequivocal response to Kelly's new book, "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty." (AP)