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Washington Wrap

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

Monday's Headlines

* Kennedy Wades into Iraq

* The O'Reilly Surprise

* Voter Registration: Advantage Democrats in Ohio and Florida

* Bush in Ohio

* Cheney Gets Jeanne-d

* Kerry in Wisconsin

* Edwards Back in New Hampshire

Kennedy and Iraq: Coming out swinging, Sen. Ted Kennedy waded into the debate over Iraq on Sunday, saying on CBS News' Face the Nation, "The greatest threat to American security after 9/11 is al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. We had an effective program to try to deal with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. We were diverted to going into Iraq. And as a result of going into Iraq, we see we are locked in there in a quagmire and we have seen blunder after blunder after blunder." Kennedy continued to passionately attack the president, using the significance-laden word "quagmire" to describe Iraq. He explained, "What we are seeing is that we are lost in the quagmire over there."

Kennedy is expected to repeat his criticism of the President on Monday in a speech at George Washington University. According to the Boston Globe, "The speech argues that the war created a new breeding ground for anti-American terrorists; gave Al Qaeda time to regroup and provided it with a new recruiting tool; stretched US troops too thinly to adequately stabilize Afghanistan; alienated former friends, especially in the Muslim world; and diverted resources that could have been used to bolster homeland security in the United States and better secure nuclear materials abroad."

"But as anyone who cares about the issue can quickly learn, our President has utterly no credibility when he keeps telling us that America and the world are safer because he went to war in Iraq and rid us of Saddam," Kennedy's speech says, according to a copy obtained by CBS News.

Republicans are nonplussed by Kennedy's critique. Reed Dickens, a Bush-Cheney spokesman, told CBS News that the Kerry campaign has, "Gotten extremely heavy on criticism and pessimism and very light on original ideas."

O'Reilly Not So Predictable: Bill O'Reilly, the conservative host of the "The O'Reilly Factor," revealed some unexpected views in a CBS News "60 Minutes" interview with Mike Wallace on Sunday.

"Wrong," said O'Reilly when asked whether he thought Bush is a "great president." "I'm one of those Independent (sic), man. I'm open to be persuaded right away. I've known Kerry for 25 years. He's a patriot. I'm listening to what he has to say."

The popular Fox News host also told Wallace that he was worried about the environment, that he was pro-gun control, against the death penalty, and supports civil unions, none of which are typical conservative viewpoints. O'Reilly then declared that, unless weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, he would never again trust the Bush administration.

O'Reilly's comments come as he puts President Bush into the hot seat in an interview scheduled to air Monday night. During the interview, conducted last Thursday, O'Reilly grills the President on weapons of mass destruction, the war in Iraq, and the carrier landing under the "Mission Accomplished" sign.

In the interview, Bush defends his decision to fly out to the USS Abraham Lincoln last May and declare an end to major combat under a huge "Mission Accomplished" sign. Since then, the sign became a flashpoint for controversy.

"I'm saying to the troops, on this carrier and elsewhere, thanks for serving America," Bush tells a surprised Bill O'Reilly. "And by the way, those sailors and airmen loved seeing the commander in chief. . . . These kids had been on a very long cruise. They'd been on a cruise to both, in two theaters of war now, Afghanistan and Iraq. I flew out there and said thanks. Thanks on behalf of a grateful nation. You bet I'd do it again."

Although the interview has yet to air, Sen. John Kerry immediately seized on the president's remarks while campaigning in Madison, Wisconsin. "I will never be a president who just says 'mission accomplished.' I will get the mission accomplished," Kerry told a group of supporters.

New Democrats in Some Key States: In two states crucial to this election, Ohio and Florida, Democrats have so far done a much better job registering new voters. The New York Times reports Sunday "that in Democratic areas of Ohio – primarily low-income and minority neighborhoods – new registrations since January have risen 250 percent over the same period in 2000." Florida has a similar trend. According to data obtained by the New York Times, new registration in Florida's strongest Democratic areas is 60 percent higher than it was in 2000, while it has increased only 12 percent in the state's strongest Republican areas.

America Votes, a not-for-profit Democratic group, has been on the ground registering voters in Ohio since last September. Spokesperson Sarah Leonard tells CBS News, "We have been in Ohio longer than any other state. We view Ohio as one of the top states for our efforts in terms of time, money, and staff power." America Votes targets Democratic voters in Ohio's Democratic base areas as well as swing voters who have yet to register.

A newly registered Democrat does not necessarily equal a vote for John Kerry. Many Democratic groups are registering people in low-income and hard to reach places, but making sure they visit the polls on November 2nd provides a whole new challenge. And traditionally Republicans have a higher turn out at the voting booth.

Republicans do have some bragging rights on registration. GOP chairman, Ed Gillespie, announced last week that they have registered over three million new voters.

In other news out of Ohio, it appears that President Bush has the support of former Representative and current prison inmate, James Traficant. The Akron Beacon Journal reports that "the second congressman since the Civil War to be stripped of his position appears to have written in a recent letter that 'Bush is answer (sic) for America!! You're on the right track!!''' The letter also contained some harsh words for the U.S. Department of Justice, the group responsible for his current address.

Bush in Ohio: President Bush is taking a quick break from debate prep, going to Ohio to talk about the economy. He may not have much to watch on television but the Kerry campaign has a new ad called "Jobs" to greet him in the state. CBS News' Mark Knoller reports:

Knoller Nugget: It is back on the campaign bus Monday as President Bush takes another re-election drive through Ohio. The trip is his 26th visit to the Buckeye State, the 13th this year and reflects the importance Mr. Bush places on keeping Ohio in his win column. He won the state in 2000 by just over 3.5 percent of the vote.

But during his watch, Ohio has lost over 200,000 manufacturing jobs. And last month another 11,800 jobs were lost as the state's unemployment rate spiked to 6.3%, well over the national average of 5.4%. That's the factor Democrats are hoping will push the state toward John Kerry. To counter, Mr. Bush has two campaign events in Ohio: Springfield and West Chester.

In news about the debates, it was a weekend of bike riding and debate preparations for the President in Crawford, Texas, his 39th visit to the central Texas ranch. He engaged in strategy sessions with top political aides and took part in four hours of practice debates. The role of John Kerry was played by his Senate colleague, New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg.

White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett engaged in an unabashed effort to low-ball expectations for Mr. Bush and portray Kerry as a master debater: "Well, Senator Kerry's been preparing his whole life for this moment. He was an all-star debater in prep school. He was an all-star debater in (the) Ivy League. He was 20 years in the most august debating society in the world, in the United States Senate. He had the epic battles and debates with Bill Weld (1996 Senate Race). He is a very seasoned debater. President Bush has had his own debates and has held his own- and I think we can expect him to do the same on Thursday."

Hold his own? Not exactly high praise from a top aide. But President Bush likes to be underestimated by his opponents, and that's part of the White House strategy now.

"Will President Bush step on his own line and maybe not pronounce a word right," Bartlett asked rhetorically. "I bet he will." But Bartlett said that after the 90-minute debate is over on Thursday, there won't be any ambiguity on the President's position.

A reporter asked Bartlett if this weekend's practice sessions should be viewed as a dress rehearsal for Mr. Bush, to which Bartlett replied: "He doesn't need practice putting on a suit, so he didn't do a full dress rehearsal." Duh.

Rapid Response to Hurricane Jeanne: Wanting to be seen reacting quickly to a disaster in a key political state, President Bush issued a disaster declaration for Florida on the same day as the storm made landfall. The action clears the way for still more federal aid to the beleaguered state now hit by four hurricanes in six weeks. Mr. Bush will get to see some of the latest damage when he arrives in the state on Wednesday, in advance of Thursday night's debate in Coral Gables.

Cheney Gets Jeanne-d: Vice President Cheney had been scheduled to campaign in Florida on Monday, but he was forced to cancel that trip due to the Hurricane Jeanne. The New York Times reports that some voters want the Veep to lighten up a bit on the stump. CBS News' Josh Gross reports:

Trail Byte: On Friday, the Vice President took a slight detail from his favorite subject (John Kerry "lacks the clarity of vision and purpose necessary to lead our country during extraordinary times.") to address an issue that will be of great importance to the Bush administration if it wins re-election.

At a Tulsa, Oklahoma fundraiser, Cheney reminded the crowd they needed to help elect more Republicans to the Senate in order to help the President push his agenda forward.

Speaking to supporters of Oklahoma Senate GOP hopeful Tom Coburn, Cheney used the three Bush tax cuts as examples to outline the need for sending the candidate to Washington.

"It's absolutely essential as we go forward here that we keep in mind that this isn't just about a seat for Oklahoma," the vice president told the $500-a-plate crowd. "This is also about control of the United States Senate and our capacity to be able to get the kind of support on the Hill that the President absolutely has to have going forward on the basic fundamental issues and programs of the day."

In stump speeches, Cheney will often mention that his lone roll provided by the Constitution as president of the Senate is to cast tie breaking votes. But that wasn't always so, he tells crowds in an attempt to make light of his legislative responsibilities. "My predecessor John Adams also had floor privileges. He could go down into the well and actually participate in the debate, and then he did a couple of times and they withdrew his floor privileges," he's told crowds in the past.

On Friday, however, there was no triviality. "But the fact is, that package that we passed last year that hung by a thread. If we'd had one less vote in the Senate, we would not have had last year's tax bill. And that tax bill was directly responsible for the economic growth that we've seen over the course of the last year now."

The vice president also had another concern beyond the actual casting of votes. Namely, that the majority also controls the committees that shape the Senate's agenda and legislative schedule. "It's also about who controls all those key committees in the United States Senate, and about a choice for example, between having Orrin Hatch from Utah as chairman of the judiciary committee, or Pat Leahy from Vermont as chairman of the judiciary committee," he stressed.

Although Senators with presidential aspirations have not had much success reaching the White House, for better or worse, legislators from that chamber will play a markedly significant roll in whether Vice President Cheney keeps his job for another four years.

Kerry Goes Public in Wisconsin: John Kerry breaks away from debate prep to stay in the news on Monday. He does a town hall meeting in Spring Green, Wisc. Also in Wisconsin on Monday is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who just happens to be campaigning about a mile away from Kerry and has a press avail later Monday. CBS News' Steve Chaggaris reports:

Trail Byte: A week that was scheduled to have John Kerry spend most of it isolated at a Wisconsin resort for debate preparations has already begun with the candidate making news.

Kerry's campaign had originally announced he would spend almost all of his time preparing for Thursday's first presidential debate. The campaign printed up schedules for the press saying "no public events scheduled" on Monday or Tuesday.

But there was a change of heart Sunday as Kerry wound up giving an impromptu five minute speech upon landing in Madison, Wisconsin. Perhaps realizing that President Bush would be making news with his Monday campaign events in the battleground state of Ohio, the campaign announced Kerry would hold a town hall meeting in Spring Hill, Wisconsin Monday morning.

Kerry arrived at the Madison airport on Sunday for his four day, three night stay at a resort in Spring Hill, 40 miles from the state capital. He ripped into President Bush, who said in an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, that he would "absolutely" repeat the "Mission Accomplished" speech regarding Iraq he gave on an aircraft carrier in May 2003.

Kerry called Bush's response "unbelievable" adding, "I will never be a president who just says mission accomplished. I will get the mission accomplished. That's the difference."

As for debate prep, Kerry will spend at least "a couple hours a day" getting ready for the first debate, according to a campaign aide. While Kerry "doesn't really do formal prep" or, historically, does not "do mock debates," the aide said, he still will be practicing with his advisers (including campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, political adviser Bob Shrum, who will play moderator Jim Lehrer, foreign policy adviser Jonathan Winer, and attorney Greg Craig, who's playing the role of President Bush) in his suite at The House on the Rock Resort.

And for those wondering why he's spending four days in remote Wisconsin to prepare, spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said, "It's a remote area where we can concentrate and focus and still get out to talk to voters as much as possible."

Edwards Back in New Hampshire: John Edwards, whose own debate is coming up soon, is getting more and more visible doing national TV interviews almost every day. CBS News' Bonney Kapp reports:

Trail Byte: John Edwards holds a town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., on Monday with the help of 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser. He then flies to Providence, R.I., for a fundraiser before heading to the Big Apple for two evening fundraisers in New York City.

On Sunday, Edwards was back on the campaign trail after resting up in Washington, D.C., for two days. He spoke at the New St. Paul Tabernacle Church on their annual women's day. African American women donning their Sunday hats were the majority of the congregation that filled less than half of the church. But Edwards used the venue to denounce the latest 527 ad to make waves using what the Democrats are calling the "politics of fear."

"Sometimes during a campaign and during an election, it's important for us to stand up and speak out, isn't it? Important for us to speak out against some of the immoral and unjust forces that are out there, right?" he asked, a question many frustrated Democrats have been asking Senators Kerry and Edwards for months.

Edwards went on to describe the ad that questions John Kerry's ability to keep the country safe by showing images of Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta, calling it "immoral and wrong." "This is not a Republican or Democratic issue it's not a political issue. We are all going to do what has to be done to keep this country safe aren't we?" he asked, a point that defended the president and vice president as well as his running mate.

Edwards also mentioned the pamphlets Republicans sent out to West Virginia and Arkansas voters that claimed a Kerry/Edwards win would ban the Bible. "The Bible is such an important part of my life. It is important part of John Kerry's life. But we have to stand up and speak out when people tell lies don't we? We have to stand up and speak out when these immoral forces are out there everyday fighting against justice don't we?"

But instead of "speaking out" against the Republicans, Edwards mostly spoke out about the fact that he was speaking out. He even reminded church goers that he had in fact done so before, when Vice President Cheney implied to voters that if Kerry won the election it was "likely" there would be another terrorist attack. "John Kerry and I don't want to divide this country, we want to unite this country," Edwards maintained before changing the subject and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King. Much safer turf for the church crowd.

On Sunday afternoon, Edwards made his second trip to Maine, where he held a town hall meeting focusing on the war on terror and national security. Sounding more like George Bush than John Edwards, the candidate said, "This is a battle of good and evil, this is a battle of freedom against those who would stop freedom," resolutely adding that the country should not "lose focus."

In case any Democrats were confused, Edwards made it clear he was in fact on the Democratic ticket. Referencing the president's interview on Fox News where he maintained he would once again give the famous/infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on deck of the aircraft carrier, Edwards said, "Listen, these people are so out of touch with reality they are living in a fantasy world and they need to come back to planet earth. You can't fix something if you don't see what's wrong."

Quote of the Day: "The fourth hurricane this year is hitting Florida. Jeb Bush said if the state were any more devastated, his brother would declare it a complete success."--Bill Maher on "Real Time"