Washington Wrap

white house washington, dc
Dotty Lynch, Beth Lester, Clothilde Ewing, Nathaniel Franks, Cody Kucharczyk and Dan Furman of the CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.

Friday's Headlines

* Poll Watch: New Numbers Across the Board

* Bush and Pulpit Politics

* Democratic Convention Watch

* Really Big Bucks

* Trail Bytes: Kerry and Edwards Back on the Trail

Poll Watch: New Numbers Show the Race Tied: Heading in to the Democratic National Convention, a slew of new polls show a very close race. The latest poll from the Los Angeles Times (conducted July 17 through 21, margin of error 3 percent) shows George Bush and John Kerry essentially tied, with Kerry leading by two without or without Ralph Nader in the race. Despite the close race, "poll findings show narrow - and in some instances broad - majorities unhappy with Bush's direction, a threatening trend for an incumbent," reports the Times.

A new poll from USA Today/CNN/Gallup (conducted July 19 through 21, margin of error 4 percent) shows the Kerry/Edwards ticket leading Bush/Cheney 47 to 46. Bush holds a major advantage "as someone with convictions" but Kerry leads on the economy, health care and education. The two are surprisingly close on the issue of taxes. The latest Fox News poll (conducted July 20 through 21, margin of error 4 percent) has Bush and Kerry tied at 44 without Nader in the race and Bush up 43 to Kerry's 42 with Nader as a choice. And, without beating a dead horse, the newest NBC/Wall Street Journal (conducted July 19 through 21, margin of error 3.4 percent) poll shows a dead heat: Bush/Cheney with 47, Kerry/Edwards with 45 and Nader/Camejo at two percent.

Every single one of those polls' results is within the margin of error, meaning the race is a statistical dead heat.

Over in the battleground states, "Sen. John F. Kerry has opened a substantial lead over President Bush in Pennsylvania, while the two remain closely matched in Florida," reports the Los Angeles Times. And the Orlando Sentinel echoes that, finding the two candidates essentially tied. The trend continues in Missouri, according to a Kansas City Star poll, and WMUR finds a dead heat in New Hampshire. In Ohio, there is a slight edge for Bush, 48 to 43, but that is only just outside the margin of error. See the numbers below.

Kerry 48
Bush 38
Nader 5
(margin of error 4 percent)

LA Times
Bush 45
Kerry 44
Nader 2
(margin of error 4 percent)

Orlando Sentinel
Bush 48
Kerry 46
Nader 2
(margin of error 4 percent)

Bush 48
Kerry 43
Nader 1
(margin of error 3 percent)

Bush 44
Kerry 46
Nader 4
(margin of error 4 percent)

New Hampshire
Bush 43
Kerry 47
Nader 4
(margin of error 4.3 percent)

Bush Really Reaching Out to Catholics: In a quick four-hour trip to Chicago on Thursday, President Bush managed to witness a terrorism drill, rally police and firefighters, tout his record and hit a $25,000 per couple fund-raiser for the RNC in a Chicago suburb, reports the Chicago Sun Times.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge joined Bush for the 10-minute terrorism drill in which a hijacker took control of a Pace bus and slammed it into a tanker truck, which began to spill hazardous gas and liquid -- really just a smoke machine and colored water. A SWAT team then stormed the bus and arrested the hijacker before firefighters in protective gear rescued passengers.

Outside of the event, anti-Bush protesters rallied against Bush, some even holding signs for his opponent, John Kerry.

Meanwhile, the RNC is hoping to capitalize on Bush's religious supporters and has asked Bush-backing Roman Catholics to provide copies of their parish directories to help register Catholics to vote in the November election, the AP reports.

The AP reports: "In a story posted Thursday on its Web site, the National Catholic Reporter said a GOP official had urged people who attended a Catholic outreach event in January to provide parish directories and membership lists to the political party.

'Access to these directories is critical as it allows us to identify and contact those Catholics who are likely to be supportive of President Bush's compassionate conservative agenda,' wrote Martin J. Gillespie, director of Catholic Outreach at the RNC."

Christine Iverson, RNC spokeswoman, says the RNC is using the information from parish directories only for its nonpartisan voter registration drive. But she also says she doesn't know if the GOP had sought similar directories from other religious organizations, reports the AP.

Democratic Convention Watch: The Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, the city's police union, plans on protesting during next week's Democratic Convention despite an arbitrator's ruling Thursday that settled a two-year dispute between the union and the city. The arbitrator awarded the union a 14.5% wage raise over four years, "roughly splitting the difference between the amount union leaders were demanding and the best offer from Mayor Thomas M. Menino," reports the Boston Globe.

Thomas J. Nee, the union's president, announced after the ruling Thursday, "Our membership will be out, to show our contempt and frustration with our employer… This contract did not deal with the issues we presented at the bargaining table. Contracts aren't just about money." Some delegation leaders, including Art Torres of California, declared that they would not cross police picket lines, even for their own delegation's parties; it is unclear whether or not the arbitrator's ruling will change their decision.

Said Menino about the city's dispute with the union, "To my mind, it's resolved...It's a little more than I thought we'd have to settle for, but I will agree to that settlement." One major union request that arbitrator Lawrence Holden ignored: officers hired after June 1, 1994, are required to live inside Boston; the union wanted to relax those standards. Menino wanted "the union to be required to drop its grievances over higher health insurance costs imposed by the city"; Holden ignored that request.

In other convention news, although Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for Illinois' open Senate seat, who at the moment is running unopposed after Jack Ryan's sex club fiasco, will play a starring role at the Democratic convention, other Democratic Senate hopefuls, such as Inez Tenenbaum in South Carolina, Erskine Bowles in North Carolina, Tony Knowles of Alaska, and Brad Carson of Oklahoma, all of whom have a shot at winning Senate seats in November will not be attending, reports the Boston Globe. The difference between Obama and the other four: John Kerry's popularity. The Kerry campaign expects to win Illinois, but his chances in Alaska, the Carolinas, and Oklahoma are much slimmer, even nonexistent.

The Globe reports that the candidates "are not running away from their party, they are all in tough races and need to spend every minute campaigning at home." Matt McKenna, Knowles's campaign spokesman, said, "[Knowles's] time is better spent in Alaska with Alaskans," a sentiment that the other campaigns echo, if not so bluntly.

Despite widespread interest in this year's presidential election, "less than one-third of respondents in a recent poll plan to spend much time watching next week's Democratic convention on television, according to the Vanishing Voter Project at Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center," reports the Boston Globe. The three major networks, CBS, ABC, and NBC, have expanded their online coverage of the conventions, but will devote less of their primetime schedules to airing the myriad speeches. Said David Westin, the president of ABC News, "the American people have told us pretty resoundingly ... that they'd rather do other things with their time than watch gavel-to-gavel coverage in the tens of millions."

Even though Americans may not be watching, the world will be. From Al Jazeera to the BBC, from Al Arabiya to Agence France-Presse, foreign media companies "are expected to follow the Democratic National Convention through TV, radio and other media to learn more about the man trying to unseat President Bush," reports the Los Angeles Times.

World interest has always been high during U.S. elections. But because this is the first major election since September 11, and because the U.S. has managed to alienate a good deal of the world in the intervening years, interest is running higher than usual, particularly in countries that dislike President Bush. Said BBC Washington bureau chief, Martin Turner, "We've moved so far beyond [the 2000 election]… with 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq. You put those together with George W. Bush, who is an enormously controversial figure in the rest of the world, and you've got a recipe for something that is of enormous interest to our audience."

In recognition of the world's interest, particularly in countries that speak Arabic, the GOP "plan[s] to have staff members fluent in Arabic and other languages," to interact with foreign reporters.

More thoughts on the convention from CBSNews.com's David Paul Kuhn in today's "Worth Noting":

"Conventions, like little toes, are the appendix, they once had a function and now it is hard to find out what the function is," says presidential historian Stephen Hess of The Brookings Institution.

Next week, the Democrats come to Boston. It's convention time. But it doesn't take an historian to see how the pertinence of conventions has withered from being the kingmaker to simply the formal coronation, as it's been a half-century since a convention chose a nominee.

"I was at the Chicago convention in 1952, we didn't know who would win," Hess recalls, speaking of the six-day Democratic convention.

That year, Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, the grandson of the former vice president of the same name, eventually won but it took a dizzying three ballots. And like the northerner now, Sen. John Kerry, Stevenson selected a southern man, Sen. John Sparkman of Alabama, as his running mate. This also occurred at the convention. Kerry chose Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, weeks ahead. Times have changed and so have politics.

"In the 19th century, there was a time when you measured political rallies by acre, people were given song books and liquor, but they don't serve that function any longer," Hess continues. He adds that well, "that is history," and "what Kerry says" on the last night of the convention "does matter."

"There will be more people watching this one political event than anything other than the debates; it will be measured in millions," he continues. "The speech will have a ripple effect. For those who watch they will talk to some more people, or talk to many, who don't watch. They will read the papers to confirm their thoughts. It will reach a lot people in one way or another."

So Much for Doing Away With Big Money: Political fund raising is just not what it used to be. Increasingly, 527s are playing a major role in the political arena, according to The Boston Phoenix. The Phoenix has compiled a who's who list of 12 donors "who chipped in more than $1 million each during the first 18 months of the current campaign cycle-the start of 2003 through the end of June- to Democratic-leaning 527s."

Although these organizations, dubbed 527s in reference to the tax code that defines them, existed prior to this election, they are beginning to take a more dominant role due to the passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. This law reduces "the amount of money individuals can give to party PACs" as well as places restrictions on how PACs can spend their donations.

Termed "The Dems' Dirty Dozen," the following contributors have donated $1 million dollars of more to various democratic-leaning 527s. The nominees are:

Peter B. Lewis, the chair of automobile-insurance company Progressive Corp., has contributed $14,038,000 this election cycle.

George Soros, chair of the Soros Fund Management, has contributed $12,481, 250 this election cycle.

Stephen Bing, a writer/producer (and father of Elizabeth Hurley's child) whose credits include the screenplay for 1993 movie Kangaroo Jack and production work for 1994 film, The Big Bounce, has contributed $8,210,424 this election cycle.

Linda Pritzker, investor and heir to a portion of the Hyatt hotel fortune, has donated $4,005,000 this election cycle.

Andrew S. Rappaport, venture capitalist and August Capital partner, has given $3,054,000 this election cycle.

Lewis Cullman, CEO of Cullman Ventures Inc., has contributed $1,764,500 this election cycle.

Agnes Varis, President of AgVar Chemicals, has donated $1,267,750 this election cycle.

John A. Harris IV, retired investment banker and heir to the Standard Oil fortune, has given $1,243,000 this election cycle.

Alida R. Messinger, trustee for the Rockefeller Family Fund, has contributed $1,177,000 this election cycle.

Susie Tompkins Buell, founder of the Esprit de Corps clothing company and the Susie Tompkins Buell Foundation, has given $1,068,225 this election cycle.

Marcia L. Carsey, co-owner of Carsey-Warner Productions and creator of The Cosby Show, has donated $1,065,500 this election cycle.

Anne Getty Earhart, investor and heiress to $400 million when Texaco bought Getty Oil, has contributed $1,007,000 this election cycle.

Trail Bytes: Kerry and Edwards Back on the Trail

Traveling with John Kerry, CBS News' Steve Chaggaris reports on Kerry's latest endorsement.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the only Democratic presidential candidate who didn't drop out, finally threw his support behind Kerry on Thursday, leaving some folks scratching their heads as to why he was so jolly in his endorsement and as to why he waited so long to make his move.

On a day that was totally overshadowed by news of the 9/11 Commission's report, Kucinich flew to Detroit to attend a 10-minute endorsement news conference where he praised the guy who he said only weeks ago would have a tough time winning in November because of the Iraq issue.

"John Kerry can win because there is a place within the Democratic Party for everyone," Kucinich said Thursday, his face beaming throughout.

In his newfound push for party unity, he criticized supporters of Ralph Nader, adding that there is also a place in the Democratic party for "those who may have been thinking of supporting Ralph Nader." Speaking of his own 60-plus delegates, Kucinich said " those delegates who pledged to me at the convention will be asked to join the Kerry-Edwards delegates in our sweep to victory ."

"The word is unity. That is the operative word. For this convention and, I believe, for America."

John Kerry seemed to agree, saying about the Ohio democrat "We are personally friendly…During the course of the campaign I think we became closer. And when we disagreed, which we did on a number of different issues, we agreed to do it agreeably."

Over in veep land, CBS News' Bonney Kapp has the details on Edward's first solo media availability.

John Edwards spoke with reporters in Hartford, Conn., on Thursday about the newly released 9/11 investigation findings. Although he has not yet read the 585-page report, the Senator was briefed in his New York City hotel room by Commissioners Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton via telephone.

In the four-minute press conference with reporters, Edwards eerily echoed (or strongly reinforced) what his running mate said at his own press conference less than an hour before.

Kerry: I have called over the last several years for major changes in our approach to intelligence.

Edwards: I've been talking about the need for reform for almost two years now.

Kerry: The bottom line is that this is not a time for bickering. This is not a time for politics.

Edwards: I think it's important for this, today particularly, not to be a day to focus on blame.

Kerry: The task is now, the time is now, it is urgent.

Edwards: I think the key for us now is to take action—the time is now to take action.

After the news of the day was discussed, a local Hartford reporter asked why Edwards decided to take his message to the small, typically liberal state of Connecticut. "This is a national campaign and I'm campaigning everywhere," Edwards responded. He didn't mention that he is also raising money everywhere. Edwards spent just a couple hours in the Nutmeg State, but walked away with $300,000 from the fundraiser that followed his press availability.

While the senator delivered his standard stump speech to Connecticut Democratic Party faithful, outside a group of some 25 protestors chanted "Four More Years!" to anyone who would listen. Unfortunately for them, Edwards likely didn't hear as he entered his fundraiser through a door down the block and around the corner.

The group of "activists" consisted of mostly18, 19 and 20-year-olds holding signs and encouraging passing cars to "Honk if you 'heart' Cheney." Several obliged. One pedestrian lauded the young group, saying "Keep up the good work."

Following the quick event, the motorcade whisked the candidate back to the airport, where he boarded the Kerry/Edwards '04 jet to Denver. Friday the two running mates will have a brief reunion at a rally Friday in Senator Kerry's place of birth, Aurora, Colorado. Later that day, Edwards will fly to Milwaukee, where he'll headline...another fundraiser.

Quote of the Day: "Nee Jerk Reaction" -The Boston Herald's front-page headline on the announcement by Boston Patrolman's Association President Thomas Nee that city police will picket the Democratic National Convention despite getting a 14.5 percent raise.