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Washington Wrap

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

Wednesday's Headlines
* Poll Watch: Thirteen Days to Go
* Ads to Nowhere
* Wednesday's Travels: Bush, Cheney, Kerry and Edwards on the trail

Poll Watch: Thirteen Days to Go: With less than two weeks (really) until Election Day, the polls are not pointing in any one direction.

National Polls
NBC News/Wall Street Journal
Bush-Cheney 48
Kerry-Edwards 48
Nader-Camejo 1
Undecided 6
Poll conducted October 16 through 18 among likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 3.4 percent.

ABC/Washington Post
Bush-Cheney 51
Kerry-Edwards 46
Nader-Camejo 1
Undecided 2
Poll conducted October 16 through 18 among 1,237 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 3 percent.

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics
Bush-Cheney 49
Kerry-Edwards 42
Nader-Camejo 2
Undecided 7
Poll conducted October 17 through 19 among 1000 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 3 percent.

Bush-Cheney 46
Kerry-Edwards 46
Nader-Camejo 1.2
Undecided 6
Poll conducted October 17 through 19 amonh1,213 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 2.9 percent

State Polls

Orlando Sentinel/WESH-News Channel 2
Bush-Cheney 48
Kerry-Edwards 45
Nader-Camejo 1
Undecided 6
Poll conducted October 14 through 16 among 625 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 4 percent.

ABC News
Bush-Cheney 47
Kerry-Edwards 50
Nader-Camejo not on ballot
Undecided not reported
Poll conducted October 14 through 17 among 789 likely voters, margin of error plus or plus 3.5 percent.

University of Cincinnati
Bush-Cheney 48
Kerry-Edwards 46
Nader-Camejo not asked
Undecided 6
Poll conducted October 11 through 17 among 757 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 4 percent.

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics
Bush-Cheney 49
Kerry-Edwards 44
Nader-Camejo not asked
Undecided 5
Conducted October 17 through 18 among 800 likely voters, margin of error plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Ads to Nowhere: Since September 1, the Kerry-Edwards campaign "has released and publicized more than half a dozen commercials, on subjects ranging from taxes to health care to the war in Iraq, without buying time for them, either nationally or in battleground states," reports The Washington Post. The effect of the ads is essentially a video new release in the guise of a paid political advertisement.

The Kerry teams defends the practice, with senior advisor Tad Devine telling the Post, "We're certainly not trying to be disingenuous…We've announced that we've created these and are prepared to use them at a time and place of our choosing." Moreover, Devine says, ""I'd consider it malpractice in political ad-making not to have the stuff ready and for us to be prepared to be engaged."

But observers say the practice is rather more complicated, and involves a difficult dance with a press corps eager to provide equal time. Evan Tracey, an analyst at TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising, told the Post the ads are "political product placement. But they're getting away with it, because the press is playing them. When the press covers a new Bush ad, the story always adds 'and Kerry released an ad of his own.' He's getting into the news chatter." And Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, tells the Post that it is "a failure of journalism to ask the question we ought to ask about every single ad: how much and where."

According to the Post, two Kerry-Edwards advertisements that were released recently – one about the flu vaccine shortage and one about Social Security – have not aired on television yet. The article further reports that the Kerry campaign has purchased small ad buys to "draw headlines" saying, "On Sept. 25, the Kerry camp released a commercial – in response to an anti-Kerry ad on terrorism by the independent Progress for America – that accused Bush of 'despicable' and 'un-American' politics. It aired only on a Washington cable station."

Mark McKinnon, Bush's media adviser, tells the Post that Bush-Cheney'04 has not engaged in the same practice.

Wednesday's Travels: President Bush in traveling through the Midwest while his Vice President spends time in Michigan. On the Democratic side, Sen. Kerry starts the day in Iowa and spends the night in Ohio. Sen. Edwards starts the day in OH and then spends the night in Iowa. Here are the reports from the campaign trail.

CBS News' Steve Chaggaris reports from the Kerry Campaign:

Trail Byte: John Kerry started the day in Waterloo, Iowa, about 90 miles from Mason City where President Bush is also campaigning Wednesday. And in his speech du jour, he railed on Bush's handling of Iraq and the war on terrorism. "This President likes to say he's a leader," Kerry said according to prepared remarks. "Mr. President, look behind you. There's no one there. It's not leadership if no one follows."

"What we need is not personal attacks for political advantage, but a capacity to see reality and plan for success." Kerry says that, but some of his comments in the last few days could be considered "personal attacks for political advantage."

For example: "A president has to be able to do more than one thing at the same time." -Wilkes-Barre, PA Tuesday (he used a variation of that line twice more on Tuesday).

"I'm here in the state of Florida and George Bush is in the state of denial." -Pembroke Pines, Florida on Saturday.

"This guy is never in doubt but frequently in error." -Xenia, Ohio on Saturday.

Meantime, as Election Day nears, Kerry has toughened up his criticisms of Bush, though he sometimes is still overly windy in his remarks. Tuesday night, for instance, on arriving in Waterloo, Kerry kicked off a rally at the airport with a bang only to talk a bit too long.

"So 14 days from now, 14 days from this very moment, Americans will have been to the polls and I know that you came here tonight to give George W. Bush his two-week notice," exclaimed Kerry at the top of the rally.

Shortly thereafter, Kerry wound up drifting, even after promising 16 minutes into the event that he would wrap up his remarks as an audience member became woozy. While the man was being tended to, Kerry told the crowd he was going to "wind up ... because I don't want to keep everybody late." It eventually took him over six minutes of winding to finally "wind up," though several audience members wound up walking out, choosing not to wait for the end.

Later on Wednesday, Kerry heads to Pittsburgh for a rally at Carnegie Mellon University, then he drives to the Mahoning Valley in Eastern Ohio where he's scheduled to go duck and goose hunting on Thursday morning.

CBS News' Bonney Kapp with Team Edwards:

Trail Byte: John Edwards is back on the bus Wednesday for a swing through eastern Ohio, emphasizing the economy, before ending up in Iowa. The Edwards campaign notes the President has not been to Ohio for more than two weeks, thought he's coming Friday. Still, the Democrats seem confident they'll win the state as internal polling shows they're up four points.

For the 13 days left, campaign officials say Edwards' itinerary will focus on the critical states of Florida and Ohio, as well as events in Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It is unlikely Edwards will return to West Virginia as sources say it will be a difficult victory.

Tuesday started in Windham, NH with Edwards saying: "I know something about town hall meetings in New Hampshire," referring to the many such meetings prior to the state's January primary. "A lot of what we want to do for this country we learned from having town hall meetings and listening to all of you," he continued.

Edwards also used the forum to go after Mr. Bush directly. "This President through his incompetence, has managed to drive this country deeper and deeper in debt and straight on the backs of young people… at the same time that he lost jobs, didn't deal with the healthcare crisis and made life harder for most families in this country. Why in the world," he asked the crowd, "would you guys put that guy back in the White House, it makes absolutely no sense to me."

Tuesday's Granite State town hall marked Edwards' final one as Democratic candidate for vice president. According to spokesman Mark Kornblau, "John Kerry and John Edwards over the last two years have held hundreds if not thousands of town hall meetings, front porch discussions, and living room chats. In the next two weeks, they're going from town to town holding rallies and fighting hard for every last vote."

Edwards took that fight through Wisconsin and Minnesota later Tuesday, where he played to local issues, offering support for dairy farmers in Eau Claire, WI and promising to enforce the right to hunt and fish and the ability snowmobile in national parks in Hibbard, MN.

Edwards also tried to make news at his Wisconsin rally by responding to Dick Cheney's remarks that terrorists might use nuclear weapons on U.S. cities. Using the remark as proof that the administration has been "incompetent" in its handling of the war on terror and homeland security, Edwards said, "They're great at their words, they're not great at doing what needs to be done."

Making what was likely his last stop in Minnesota before Election Day, Edwards hit Hibbard in the state's Iron Range, where he was joined by Walter Mondale. The former vice president took a jab at Cheney. "I don't want to pick on him, but he is sour and negative and backward looking-and what is worse is he's using my office in the White House and I want to get somebody good in there," Mondale said to a crowd of more than 5,000. The crowd concurred.

CBS News' Mark Knoller reports from the Bush Campaign:

Knoller Nugget: Three Midwest states President Bush lost four years ago are his campaign targets Wednesday with rallies planned in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Why campaign in states he lost? First, his campaign figures the poll numbers are close enough to more than make it worth his while at this stage of the race. And he needs an electoral vote buffer in case he loses Ohio, a state he won in 2000.

Taken together, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin comprise 27 electoral votes, more than enough to cover Ohio's 20.

In no way is the Bush campaign conceding Ohio, but Mr. Bush hasn't been to the state since October 2. He is scheduled to make a quick stop there on Friday. It's more political algebra. Calculus, really. And the final exam is November 2.

And as Election Day nears, the political attacks are clearly growing more bitter. Going further than ever Tuesday in denigrating John Kerry, Mr. Bush declared his opponent is neither "prepared" nor "equipped" to be president. In each of his three campaign speeches in Florida, he accused his rival of "relying on a litany of complaints and old-style scare tactics."

"As proven by his record and a series of contradictions in this campaign, my opponent will say anything he thinks will benefit him politically at the time."

The attack was a response to Kerry's charges that Mr. Bush was going to cut Social Security benefits and reinstate the military draft. "I will do what I have said I will do," said the President. "We will keep the promise of social security for our seniors. And there will be no draft as long as I'm the president." Mr. Bush said he expects American voters to "reject the politics of fear" as practiced by Kerry.

Looking to inoculate himself politically on the flu vaccine shortage, President Bush tried to allay concerns about the matter, especially in a state in which senior citizens comprise a significant voting bloc. "I want to assure them that our government is doing everything possible to help older Americans and children get their shots," he said.

Early in his first Florida speech on Tuesday, Mr. Bush said millions of additional doses of the vaccine are being stockpiled, and efforts are being made to make sure the most vulnerable Americans get the shots they need. He said he's grateful to those healthy Americans who are forgoing the vaccinations.

But it's an issue on which the Kerry campaign is trying to score political points. It released a new radio ad in Florida that blasts Mr. Bush for the flu vaccine shortage. Here's part of the text of the ad: "If they can't even deal with the flu vaccine, how are they going to deal with bio terror vaccines? I mean, George Bush and the Republicans are so busy kow-towing to drug companies, so busy giving them billions, helping them price gouge, pumping up their profits…so busy selling us out, they can't even get vaccines to keep pregnant woman safe from the flu. Four more years? They haven't earned it. Not even close. It's time for a new direction."

It's very tough stuff, and reflects the increasing harshness of the campaign attacks.

During one leg of Tuesday's campaign bus trip, rolling from St. Petersburg to New Port Richey, the President's caravan stopped in the town of Safety Harbor, Florida. The President made a mid-morning pit-stop at the Paradise Restaurant, greeting late breakfasters and early lunchers.

And it seems Mr. Bush and his brother Jeb, the Governor of Florida, were a bit hungry, too. The President ordered and paid for coffee and baklava. On previous bus trips, Mr. Bush has been seen to buy bear claws, frozen custard, popcorn and other such treats. He usually says he's carbing up for the campaign. At the current pace of the campaign, it goes without saying.

CBS News' Josh Gross reports from the Cheney Bus:

Trail Byte: Vice President Cheney has altered his stump speech slightly this week to address some specific accusations by John Kerry. While he has done this in the past to repudiate arguments and statements put forth by the Senator, what has developed this week is less rhetorical campaign debate and more along the lines of mocking ridicule.

Cheney acknowledges two accusations by Senator Kerry in the last few weeks – the potential for the draft and the loss of Social Security – and almost welcomes their inclusion into the political discussion. It gives him a chance to pigeonhole the Democrats as being desperate and unoriginal.

"I have trouble remembering elections when there wasn't an effort down in the closing days for the opposition to try to scare everybody by saying, oh my gosh, if you elect a Republican, something bad is going to happen to Social Security," he said after ticking off the litany of state and national elections he's participated in. "It's a myth. It's absolutely wrong. It's, I think, a move of desperation on their part to suggest that. It's the kind of scare tactics we've heard so often in the past," he concluded in Carroll, Ohio on Tuesday.

The same deriding tone was present at a rally in Xenia, Ohio, only this time Cheney was addressing the allusion of required military conscription. "He (Kerry) will try to scare young people by raising the specter of the draft when he knows the only people who are in favor of bringing it back in his own party," Cheney said referring the legislation introduced by Congressman Charles Rangel. "And this past week when the House was given an opportunity to vote on reinstating the draft, the vote was overwhelmingly against it, over 400 No's and two votes for it, both Democrats."

Of course, the Vice President isn't beyond trying to scare an audience either. For weeks, he's attempted to describe the ultimate goal of a terrorist and how his administration has come to except it.

"We've since come to understand that the biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever been used against us, with a biological agent, or a nuclear weapon, or a chemical weapon of some kind, able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, not just 3000," he often says alluding to the number of people killed on 9/11.

How well these scare tactics influence voters will be seen on the first Tuesday in November. But possibly the most frightening aspect of the Vice Presidents rallies is his handlers insistence that he enter the arena to the tub-thumping beats of 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready for This." The mid-90's electronic dance song (a staple of high school pep rallies and cheerleading routines) would probably be better served introducing the starting front line of a minor league hockey team than the second most powerful man in the world.

Quote of the Day: "There was no sex for 14 days…Everything comes with side effects." --California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the result of his endorsement of President Bush at the Republican National Convention. Schwarzenegger is married to a Kennedy, Maria Shriver. (AP)

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