* Ad Watch
* Senate Races
* President Back in Washington
* It's the Economy, Finally
* Edwards Back on the Bus for Quality Time
* Barry Back in DC
Ad Watch: In the battle for the airwaves, President Bush has focused his advertising since the convention in 17 battleground states while Senator Kerry is spending the crux of his advertising money on a more narrow eight states, reports the Los Angeles Times. "Bush is continuing with the national battleground strategy, to extend his convention bounce," Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, told the Times. "Kerry is now cherry-picking. He's trying to extend his money and extend his buys. Either he's trying to husband his resources or he's saying the playing field is shrinking."
Democratic-leaning 527s are continuing to chime in to help the Kerry shortfall.
A new 527 called The Fight Back Campaign, popped up on the political scene with a new ad Wednesday morning. Their website, www.holdthemaccountable2004.com, cites their organization as a group of "volunteer Democratic activists across the country who are tired of the distractions and diversions used by the Bush Administration." They are currently raising money to pay for two new advertisements. The first ad, titled "Terrible Mistakes," is a silent ad that consists of a scrolling graphic listing the age, rank, service, and hometown of fallen soldiers. This thirty-second advertisement will start running on Monday, September 20th in Madison, Wisconsin and Charleston, West Virginia, spokesman Eric Cambone tells CBS News. It is a baby ad buy since they are a brand new 527 and to date they only have $20,000 available.
The more well heeled MoveOn.org, also released a new 30 second ad on Wednesday titled, "Quagmire" which also utilizes images from the Iraq war. This ad shows a soldier sinking in the sands of a desert as the announcer says, "Going it alone, George Bush has spent $150 billion dollars, money we need for schools and health care." According to information obtained by CBS News, the buy is for $230,000 for national cable outlets and select states.
Senate Race: Incumbents all won re-nomination in Tuesday's US Senate Primaries.
In Washington State, Rep. George Nethercutt defeated his rivals including his best-known opponent, college professor Reed Davis. Nettercutt will face Democratic Sen. Patty Murray come November 2.
In Pennsylvania, the Democratic nominee in the Pennsylvania Senate race is Rep. Joe Hoeffel, who will face four-term Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in November.
In Wisconsin, construction executive Tim Michels has emerged as the GOP candidate and will face Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold. Michels has put $870,000 of his own money into the primary, outspending his closest competitor, Russ Darrow, by 2-to-1, reports the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
In New Hampshire, both Republican Sen. Judd Gregg and his opponent, Democrat Doris Granny D Haddock, easily won their respective nominations. The Manchester Union Leader reports that Gregg, who is seeking his third consecutive term in Washington, captured 92 percent of the votes with 49 percent of the precincts counted. As for Haddock, the competition was even less stiff: her lone challenger, state Sen. Burt Cohen, withdrew from the race.
The Okalahoma Senate race is becoming increasingly controversial in the wake of allegations that Republican Senate candidate, Dr. Tom Coburn, sterilized a 20-year-old patient without proper consent and defrauded the government by withholding information, reports the New York Times. His Democratic challenger, Rep. Brad Carson, called on Coburn to answer to the allegations. In an interview Tuesday, Coburn denied that he had committed fraud or malpractice. Coburn went on to accuse Carson of leaking the details in an attempt to damage his character, reports the Washington Post. Coburn and Carson face a close battle to succeed Republican Sen. Don Nickles, who is retiring.
President Bush is Back in Washington: The president is back in town and courting those key Hispanic voters. CBS News' Mark Knoller reports:
Knoller Nugget: It's a rare full-day back at the White House for President Bush on Wednesday, though he's still on the campaign trail. He reaches out Wednesday afternoon to Latino-American voters by hosting a concert and attends a reception marking Hispanic Heritage Month.
The event provides a forum in which Mr. Bush can appeal to Hispanic voters, who could be a deciding factor in a number of states indispensable to his re-election strategy.
In years past, the Democratic National Committee has ridiculed the President's obvious political outreach, accusing the White House of playing "mariachi politics." But this year, John Kerry is engaging in the same kind of tactics.
In fact, on Tuesday, the Kerry campaign announced it had produced a new Spanish language political ad blasting Mr. Bush for not doing enough to make health care more affordable and available.
The ad cites statistics that "one out of every three Latinos in this country lives without medical insurance" and implies that, if John Kerry is elected, he'll remedy the situation.
The Hispanic vote is no less important to the Kerry campaign than to its GOP counterpart.
On Guard For Bush: Judging by the reception he received Tuesday at the annual convention of the National Guard Association of the United State, President Bush is clearly viewed as one of its own.
Thousands of present and former members of the Guard gave Mr. Bush a thunderous and prolonged standing ovation at the cavernous Las Vegas Convention Center.
The President chose not to address in any way the latest spate of questions about alleged gaps in his service in the Texas Air National Guard but he spoke of his pride at having been in the Guard.
"You have had many famous Americans in your ranks, including men named Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, and Truman. Nineteen individuals have served both in the National Guard and as President of the United States, and I am proud to be one of them."
Mr. Bush noted that more than 185,000 members of the Guard have been mobilized to active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And he acknowledged that call-ups have been difficult on those Guard members and their families.
He offered them this pledge: "We are working to provide you at least 30 days notification before you are mobilized, so you have time to make arrangements. We are working to give you as much certainty as possible about the length of your mobilization."
He also told the Guard members that America is safer for their service.
When In Doubt, Get A Quarterback: It's clear that the Bush campaign loves to get a prominent sports figure to introduce the president at his political rallies.
In the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village, Colorado, former Broncos' star quarterback John Elway did the honors on Tuesday. While he would probably get more votes than any politician, Elway used a number of football metaphors in his introduction. He said Mr. Bush knows a thing or two about quarterbacking.
In Michigan last month, another football giant was called upon to introduce the President: retired coach and Michigan icon Bo Schembechler. And a couple of days later in Ohio, it was golf legend Jack Nicklaus who introduced Mr. Bush at a rally in Columbus.
It's hard to believe a sports figure would mean more votes for a candidate. But it couldn't hurt.
Stranded in Las Vegas: First the good news. Air Force One took off safely from Las Vegas Tuesday after the president's speech to the National Guard Association.
Not so the White House press plane.
By the time the press got to McCarran Airport and boarded the Primaris 757 serving as the White House press, a communications outage had hit the FAA out west.
Despite waiting upwards of three hours for permission to take off for the flight back to Washington, D.C., the permission never came.
It was decided the White House press would have to spend the night in Vegas and try to fly home again in the home.
Las Vegas is certainly an amusing place to be stranded. But it could just as easily have been Des Moines.
Cheney Takes a Breather: Vice President Cheney has no public events on Wednesday but he's spent the last week polishing his anti-Kerry lines. CBS News' Josh Gross reports:
Trail Byte: Vice President Cheney reworked an anti-Kerry barb at two events Tuesday that were overlooked in last week's "wrong choice" speech. During rallies in Blytheville, Ark. and Clarksburg, WVa., he criticized the Democratic candidate's "eighth position on the war in Iraq", again trying to characterize John Kerry as being too shifty when it comes to articulating his opinions.
Like he did last week in New Hampshire, Cheney called attention to a speech Kerry made on September 6 in which he called the war in Iraq, "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."
The Vice President responded, "It's former Democrat Primary Candidate Howard Dean's position. And nine months ago, when Howard Dean took this position during the primary, Senator Kerry said, and I quote, 'Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be President or the credibility to be elected President.' End quote."
The vice president's criticism usually scores on several levels with the very pro-Bush/Cheney crowds. First off, it takes an indirect swipe at Howard Dean. Secondly, it again paints Kerry as being a "flip-flop" when it comes to the war. And finally, it sets Cheney up for a new punch line that is been incorporated into his stump speech.
"In the spirit of bipartisanship, that's one position of Senator Kerry's that I do agree with," he quips to energetic laughter and applause.
Look for this line to become a regular part of the Vice President's repertoire of insults directed toward Kerry. While it's possible for the Democrats to defend their Senate voting records by arguing about the complications surrounding certain wartime legislation, it's much more difficult to shoot down direct hits from the campaign trail.
It's the Economy, Finally: Kerry begins his day at the Detroit Economic Club and then goes to Wisconsin, a state won by Al Gore in 2000, but where new polls show Kerry trailing Bush by between four and eight points.
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Tuesday evening shows "Kerry was the choice of 50 percent, with 44 percent for Bush and 1 percent for independent Ralph Nader." The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The bright spot for Kerry? An analysis done for the Detroit Free Press suggests that Kerry may have the upper hand in the very-close battle. Reports the DFP, "Kerry and organizations like the Sierra Club and Democratic National Committee have far outspent Bush and surrogate supporters in Michigan advertising. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Kerry and the DNC spent $4.6 million, and Bush and the Club for Growth spent $2.9 million in advertising in the state, said Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, which tracks campaign spending in the state." Stay tuned to see whether that spending advantage pays off.
Ralph Nader is also in Wisconsin today, speaking at University of Wisconsin at 3 p.m. CBS News' Steve Chaggaris reports:
Trail Byte: When John Kerry's new adviser, former Clinton White House spokesman Mike McCurry, begins his job as a "press aide" on the trail Wednesday, he'll be greeted by his new candidate turning up the heat on President Bush and his economic record.
"The president would have us believe that his record is the result of bad luck, not bad decisions. That he's faced the wrong circumstances, not made the wrong choices," Kerry said to the Detroit Economic Club, according to prepared remarks. "In fact, this president has created more excuses than jobs. His is the 'Excuse Presidency: Never wrong, never responsible, never to blame."
Kerry's comments come a day after he criticized Bush's speech to the National Guard convention, telling a boisterous pro-Kerry crowd in Toledo, "The president stood up... talked to the National Guard and just glosses over Iraq as if everything is just fine."
"The situation in Iraq is worse, not better," he added.
"$200 billion later this president still won't admit the mistakes, he just says he miscalculated. Ladies and gentlemen, we deserve leadership that levels with the American people, leadership that tells the truth."
All that talking at his 90-minute town hall meeting in Toledo and at an earlier town hall in Milwaukee must have made Kerry hungry as he stopped in to check out a local restaurant in Detroit when he arrived there a few hours later.
He ambled into Steve's Soul Food Restaurant where he noticed the buffet – priced by the pound – and loaded up a to-go container with $9.73 worth of BBQ ribs and chicken, rice, beans and collard greens. "You've got good taste in food," he said to a group at one table.
After his speech in Detroit Wednesday morning, Kerry heads back to Wisconsin for a rally in Madison, then he'll address the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington, DC in the evening. On Thursday, Kerry speaks to the same National Guard convention that President Bush was at Tuesday before attending a rally in Albuquerque.
Edwards Back on the Bus for Quality Time: John Edwards starts his Wednesday at a town meeting in Parkersburg, West Virginia and then rides the bus, making various stops on the way to a 7:30pm rally at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. CBS News' Bonney Kapp is along:
Trail Byte: John Edwards accepted the endorsement of several CEOs in Oregon City, Oregon on Tuesday. Standing in front of a portable climbing wall and an audience of reporters, the leaders of Columbia Sportswear, Patagonia, and Mountain Gear, among others, threw their support behind the Democratic ticket, saying, "They know that proactively protecting our public lands right now for future generations is critical."
The senator did touch on issues important to the "outdoor executives" like healthcare and the environment, but reporters' pens activated when he blasted the President for fiscal irresponsibility. "You know, I think he believes he's Ken Lay and America is his Enron. The truth of the matter is when a CEO runs a company the way George Bush has run America is they get fired," the senator said.
Edwards stayed on the offensive at his town hall and $500,000 fundraiser following the endorsement, continuing to accuse the Republicans of having no means to fund their programs. "They've got plans for these health savings accounts and privatizing social security that will cost another $3 trillion. No way to pay for any of these things," he said, taking a line from the Republican playbook. "The bottom line is what they're doing is they're running up debt, running up deficit as far as the eye can see."
The Bush campaign added to the numbers blame game and quickly fired back, "John Edwards' false and flailing attacks can't hide the fact that the Kerry/Edwards budget numbers don't add up and their healthcare plan alone will cost $1.5 trillion...which will be paid for by tax increases."
Maybe this can all be sorted out at the vice presidential debate next month, for which Edwards is currently preparing.
"[Cheney's] been part of the Washington bureaucracy for decades-except when he was the CEO of Halliburton-he won the debate in 2000, he is ruthless as we've seen over the last few weeks and will say anything to save his hide. He presents a very difficult challenge as a debate opponent and I'll leave it at that," Edwards spokesman Mark Kornblau said without saying what goes into the senator's debate preparations.
After a town hall in West Virginia on Wednesday, Edwards takes to the bus for a two-day tour through West Virginia and Ohio. The campaign said the bus tour was the senator's idea because "he knows he can make a real difference for the campaign by spending real time in these communities-not just flying in and out."
Barry Bounces Back: Former Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry won the Democratic primary for a spot on the DC city council on Tuesday. Barry ran in his home district, Ward 8, the poorest ward in the nations capital, reports the Washington Post. The win came as part of a larger push by disgruntled voters throughout the city to oust several veteran members of the D.C. Council.
Barry defeated Sandy Allen, receiving 57 percent of the vote compared to her 25 percent. Other victories included challenger Vincent C. Gray beating out incumbent Kevin P. Chavous in Ward 7 as well as Kwame R. Brown taking incumbent Harold Brazil's at-large seat. Barry, Gray, and Brown all called for more affordable housing and new development for neighborhoods. They also oppose raising taxes to build a possible Major League baseball stadium, a top priority right now of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
Barry will face a Republican candidate, Shelton Cardell who got 41 votes in his unopposed race for the Republican nomination in Ward 8in the general election. Barry is expected to win handily in November,
Quote of the Day: "A political point of view is really sexy, especially in L.A," The O.C. star Ben McKenzie, to Elle Magazine. (New York Post)