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Washington Wrap

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

Thursday's Headlines

*Poll Watch: Varying Margins
*Shrinking Battleground
*Bush Targets Southeast and Northeast
*All Stuffed Up
*Pinch Hitter
*Native American Voter Turnout on the Rise

Poll Watch: The president still has a lead nationally though the margin continues to vary.

Wall Street Journal/NBC:

Registered Voters: (Interviews of 1,006 registered voters)
Bush: 48%
Kerry: 45%
Nader: 2%
Undecided: 5%

*Margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 points

Likely Voters: (Interviews of 787 likely voters)
Bush: 50%
Kerry: 46%
Nader: 1%

*Margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 points
(Interviews conducted September 17–19)

A new national poll of young voters was released Wednesday.

CBS News/MTV/Circle: (Interviews of 879 18-29-year-olds)

Bush: 40%
Kerry: 46%
Nader: 4%
Undecided: 10%

(Interviews conducted September 8-13)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 3 points.

The Democratic group, Democracy Corps, also released a new poll Wednesday with President Bush holding a slight lead.

Democracy Corps: (Interviews of 1,017 likely voters)

Bush: 47%
Kerry: 45%
Nader: 5%
Undecided: 3%

(Interviews conducted on September 19-21)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 points.

In addition to the recent national polls, there are some new numbers from battleground states. ABC News reports that President Bush's campaign shows "more effective voter contact" in Wisconsin.

ABC News: (Interviews of 1,050 likely voters in Wisconsin)
Bush: 53%
Kerry: 43%
Nader: 1%

(Interviews conducted on September 16-19)

*Margin of error is 3.5 points.

USA Today and the Gallup Organization have new polls for Nevada and West Virginia. President Bush carried both states in 2000 but Senator Kerry has spent time and money targeting their undecided voters.

USA Today/Gallup – Nevada:

Likely Voters (Interviews of 535 likely voters in Nevada):
Bush: 52%
Kerry: 43%
Nader: 1%
Undecided: 4%

*Margin of error is 5 points.

Registered Voters (Interviews of 721 registered voters in Nevada):
Bush: 48%
Kerry: 46%
Nader: 2%
Undecided: 4%

*Margin of error is 4 points.

(Interviews conducted September 18-21)

USA Today/Gallup – West Virginia:

Likely Voters (Interviews of 619 likely voters in West Virginia):
Bush: 51%
Kerry: 45%
Undecided: 4%

*Margin of error is 5 points.

Registered Voters (Interviews of 775 registered voters in West Virginia):
Bush: 51%
Kerry: 42%
Nader: 2%
Undecided: 5%

*Margin of error is 4 points.

(Interviews conducted on September 17 – 20)

Two states which President Bush lost in 2000, California and Washington, are likely to vote the same direction this election cycle. A new Los Angeles Times poll reports that despite an increased presence in national polls, President Bush is still double-digits behind Sen. Kerry. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites a new Elway poll showing Kerry with a sizable lead in Washington State.

Los Angeles Times – California Poll: (Interviews of 861 likely voters)
Bush: 40%
Kerry: 55%
Undecided: 5%

(Interviews conducted September 17-21)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 3 points.

Elway Poll – Washington Sate: (Interviews of 405 registered voters)
Bush: 38%
Kerry: 52%
Undecided/Other: 10%

(Interviews conducted September 17-19)

*Margin of error is plus or minus 5 points.

Battleground Arithmetic: As recently as August, the Kerry campaign was boasting of its ability to "expand the battleground" or, in non-campaign speak, to win states that were leaning towards President Bush. But now, with 40 days to go, that expansion appears to be largely unfulfilled. As the Associated Press reports, Kerry is canceling advertising time that was reserved for Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri.

"The ads were scheduled to begin airing Oct. 5 as part of a $5 million investment through Nov. 2, but campaign advisers concluded Kerry isn't doing well enough in the states to justify the cost." Bush won all four of those states in 2000 but Kerry has invested face time and money in hoping to turn the tide.

And it looks as if the Kerry campaign isn't the only one who sees the battlegrounds shifting. In an interview with the Washington Times, Bush chief political strategist Karl Rove said, "There's a lot more blue territory that's been trending purple and red, and a lot less red that's been getting any tinge of blue in it, and that's good for us." And Rove went further than the Kerry camp has gone, naming several states as going red. "A lot of states that were expected to be in close contention are floating out of contention: North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri; maybe Colorado, Arizona," he said. Rove also told the Times that he thinks "we are on the verge of seeing West Virginia and Ohio sort of move out of contention." Rove's optimism on Ohio is particularly interesting: no Republican has ever won the presidency without the Buckeye State.

Speaking of Republican strategy, "President Bush's political team is orchestrating a vastly larger advertising campaign than thought possible under federal law, taking control of millions in Republican Party funds simply by inserting the phrase 'our leaders in Congress' in selected commercials,' reports the AP. Under FEC regulations, presidential candidates who take public funding have about $75 million in federal money to spend in the general election and can spend an additional $16 million in coordination with their national political party. Generally, money spent beyond that $16 million cannot be coordinated but Republicans "say the cost of ads that mention congressional leaders or broadly partisan tags such as 'liberals' can be split between the re-election campaign and the RNC without counting toward the $16 million party limit." The ads were made by Maverick Media headed by Bush-Cheney media adviser Mark McKinnon,

The AP says that "the GOP strategy had gone unnoticed for weeks by Sen. John Kerry and the Democrats, who now may abandon their own less-cost-efficient approach to advertising..." Stay tuned.

Bush Targets both the Southwest and Northeast on Thursday: CBS news Mark Knoller reports that the President begins his day attending and addressing the opening ceremony for the National Museum of the American Indian. In some southwest states, Native Americans could be a deciding factor (see item blow).

Mr. Bush also heads north to Maine for an afternoon republican rally in Bangor. Maine is a state Mr. Bush lost in 2000, by just over 5 percent of the vote. But his parents have a home there and the president is unwilling to surrender the state to Kerry.

Knoller Nugget: While denouncing the ghastly beheadings of U.S. citizens in Iraq, President Bush sounds concerned that the killings may turn more Americans against U.S. involvement there.

Addressing a campaign rally Wednesday in Latrobe, Pa., the president said, "We abhor the violence. We can't stand the beheadings. But we're not going to let thugs keep us from doing our duty."

He went on to say, "The terrorists are desperate. They're trying to affect the elections in Iraq. They can't stand the thought of the people of that country voting to decide who their leaders are. They want to impose their dim vision, on the people of that country. That's what they're trying to do and that's why you're seeing on your TV screens awful brutality. Those terrorists will not defeat our military. They cannot defeat our military. The only thing they can do is behead people and try to shake our will. They're trying to shake the will of Iraqis. They're trying to convince the Iraqis freedom is not worth it. They're trying to convince the American people that we will not succeed. That's the only weapon they have."

The President also took some new verbal shots at John Kerry's approach to Iraq saying "you cannot lead the war on terror if you wilt or waver when the times are tough."

He again accused Kerry of sending mixed signals. "Incredibly, this week he said he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today. You cannot lead the war against terror if you wilt or waver when times get tough. You cannot expect the Iraqi people to stand up and do the hard work of democracy if you're pessimistic about their ability to govern themselves. You cannot expect our troops to continue doing the hard work if they hear mixed messages from Washington, D.C. Mixed signals are wrong signals. I'll continue to speak clearly. I'll continue to lead and I'm confident we'll achieve our objectives and the world will be better-off..."

The president meets at the White House Thursday morning with Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the interim government of Iraq. The two leaders met Tuesday in New York when both were attending the U.N. General Assembly.

Mr. Bush told one of his rallies Wednesday that he can't wait for the American people to hear from Allawi - who asserts that despite the on going bloodshed - important progress is being made in Iraq.

After their late morning meeting, the two leaders will hold a joint press availability in the Rose Garden.

The White House let it be known that President Bush will spend the weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas for a few days of preparations and strategy sessions for the first presidential debate next Thursday at the University of Miami. Spokesman Scott McClellan said "the president will operate out of Texas for the first debate."

All Stuffed Up: Sen. John Kerry has a bad cold and is cutting his schedule short on Thursday -but not so short that he is skipping Ohio. He is holding an event in Columbus and an editorial board meeting with the Columbus Dispatch Thursday. He then heads for Philadelphia to take two aspirin and maybe one of Teresa's hot toddies. CBS News Steve Chaggaris reports on Kerry's change of plans:

Trail Byte: Talk about fortunate timing. John Kerry was belted Wednesday by what he described as a "cold" (even as his aides continued to insist he had merely "strained his throat"). His staff was up late Wednesday shuffling Thursday's schedule – altering Kerry's events in Columbus, Ohio, then sending John Edwards in his place to two previously scheduled events in Iowa. But it's not like Kerry's public itinerary was jam-packed with campaign events from Wednesday until next Thursday's first presidential debate.

Health permitting, Kerry on Friday will resume his regular schedule in Philadelphia with a rally and a flight to Boston where he'll spend Friday and Saturday night. On Sunday, he's off to Wisconsin to virtually isolate himself for debate preparations.

Despite his obvious congestion and scratchy voice on Wednesday, Kerry forged ahead with the one event on his Florida schedule - a town hall meeting in West Palm Beach - as well as visiting a day care center in Orlando in the morning. His illness couldn't change the fact that he needs to make up lost time in the state where three hurricanes prevented him from campaigning there for weeks.

During his town hall meeting, Kerry talked mainly about Iraq, health care and Social Security but he did take some interesting questions from the audience, including one about the draft ("If George Bush were to be re-elected...it is possible? I can't tell you... I will not reinstate the draft.") and one about whether he'd choose women to work in his administration ("I am not somebody who believes in quotas...the government that I put together on your behalf will look like and act like and represent America.").

And even though Kerry's cold caused him to struggle to talk, he still tried to keep a sense of humor.

On President Bush's policies, Kerry quipped, "Yesterday, I was in Orlando right next to Fantasyland. The difference between George Bush and me is that I drove by it. He lives in it."

Later, referring to the war on terror, Kerry said, "Anybody who's thinking about this war has to understand the war on terror was focused on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. You don't hear of him very much - his name from this guy (President Bush) anymore. You know, that old 'wanted dead or alive' routine has become Osama bin Forgotten."

Pinch Hitter: John Edwards, who thought he had the day off, picks up John Kerry's planned events in Iowa on Thursday. Edwards will attend a "Conversation with Women and Their Families" in Davenport where the topic is fighting the war on terror. Two of the women who will be in attendance lost their husbands on September 11th and a third was in one of the World Trade Center towers. After his "Conversation", Edwards will hold a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

CBS News' Bonney Kapp is working too:

Trail Byte: While John Edwards was out campaigning in Florida and South Carolina, his colleagues in the U.S. Senate voted to approve the nomination of Rep. Porter Goss as new CIA director. The candidate remained silent on missing the vote, though he did make a statement to denounce the Republicans' new ad showing John Kerry windsurfing.

Spokesman Mark Kornblau told CBS News, "John Kerry and John Edwards do not support George Bush's partisan choice for this serious post, but Porter Goss is not the real issue. The real issue is George Bush's repeated failure to reform our intelligence system and make the American people safe."

Edwards' presence would not have affected the outcome of the vote, so instead he stuck with his busy campaign schedule, hitting state number 34 since being named Kerry's running mate. But it's unlikely the candidate's presence in South Carolina, the state where he was born, will affect the outcome of November's vote.

The miles Edwards logged in South Carolina may have paid off during the primaries (it was the only primary Edwards won) but the President holds a healthy 12 point lead over Kerry in the latest American Research Group poll out Wednesday.

"Boy it's good to be back in South Carolina, I'll tell you that," Edwards told supporters in Columbia. Possibly realizing strong rhetoric would not go over well in this red state, Edwards' speeches at his rally and $750,000 fundraiser were less about Bush-Cheney and more about the "values" he learned growing up.

"The truth is what most people care about in this state are the same things I grew up learning about-faith, family, hard work and responsibility," Edwards said. "For me that's what this election is about at the end of the day. I want to see the same chances that I had growing up, the same opportunities for everybody," he continued.

Edwards was originally scheduled to fly home to Washington, DC after his events in South Carolina, but because his voice-weary running mate needed a stand in, he is headed off to Iowa instead. "He's lost his voice for a day or so, so I'm going to go to Iowa and do his events tomorrow," Edwards said in an interview with Larry King. "We're in this foxhole fighting for our country together, and we're going to keep fighting."

Exercising the Vote on the Reservation: Candidates running for office this year are currently lobbying for the support of a long overlooked group of voters: Native Americans. Although Indian voters only represent 1.5 percent of the US population, their voter registration is increasing as is voter participation. This development is particularly important because Native Americans are a presence in several swing states. In 2000, the Indian population helped elect Maria Cantwell in Washington State and continued to make its presence known by turning out in droves in Sen. Tim Johnson's very close 2002 re-election victory, reports The New York Times.

Not only have Indian voters been heading to the polls in larger numbers, they are also diversifying their party allegiance. Traditionally Democratic, Indians have recently channeled support and donations to both the Republican and Democratic parties. In turn, politicians have promised to address issues including updated healthcare and education on reservations, better transportation, and an improved casino environment for those tribes affiliated with casinos.

Tribal leaders are pleased with how this year's presidential candidates have included their voter bloc in their campaign agendas, especially in states like New Mexico and Arizona. "It was a real experience," Navajo Nation president, Joe Shirley Jr., told the Times about a visit from John Kerry, I really appreciated the fact that he was willing to come into Native country and be part of our sacred ceremony." Even though past voter drives has been less than successful, tribal leaders are hopeful that this year things will change

Quote of the Day: "With all the attention on Chelsea Clinton and the Bush girls, it's a great background for the coming of age of a young girl." --actress Katie Holmes, on her movie "First Daughter" (New York Daily News)