Who's On First?

The successful GOP convention in New York propelled President Bush into the lead over Democratic challenger John Kerry, but the current state of the race is proving much harder to pin down.

A Gallup poll out Friday gives Mr. Bush a solid 13-point lead over Kerry. But surveys released on Thursday by Harris and the Pew Research Center show the race to be even.

A CBS News/New York Times poll to be released later Friday is expected to shed more light on the subject.

Mr. Bush and Kerry are back on the campaign trail Friday, following a war of words over Iraq on Thursday. Kerry campaigns in New Mexico, where he'll be highlighting health care, the war in Iraq and national security.

The president is attending fund-raisers in Washington D.C. and North Carolina before heading for the Bush family compound in Maine for the weekend. He'll be back in action Sunday with a trip to hurricane-ravaged areas in the South.

Here are the most important campaign developments:

  • The Washington Post reports that a major shake-up of the Kerry campaign staff has thrust three veteran Democratic operatives into positions of power: former Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart, John Sasso, a longtime operative with strong organizational skills, and strategist Michael Whouley. Emerging from the shake-up with diminished power, the Post says, are strategist Bob Strum and campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports congressional Republicans plan votes on three hot-button social issues in a bid to embarrass the Democrats prior to the election. On the GOP social agenda are a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage, a constitutional amendment that gives Congress the power to outlaw flag-burning and a bill that stipulates only state judges may consider legal challenges to the Pledge of Allegiance. The last measure is an effort to insure that the Supreme Court cannot strike the words "under God" from the Pledge.
  • Neither Mr. Bush nor Kerry has been invited to attend an annual event with a long and rich political tradition. The contenders won't break bread at the Alfred E. Smith dinner because issues in the presidential campaign could detract from the "spirit" of the event, said its sponsor, the Archdiocese of New York. The 59th annual dinner will feature the president's father, former President George H.W. Bush, and former New York Gov. Hugh Carey as speakers.

    On Thursday, Mr. Bush and Kerry engaged in a war of words over Iraq. Kerry, addressing National Guard veterans in Las Vegas, said the president was trying to deceive voters with a "a fantasy world of spin" rather than telling the truth about the war in Iraq.

    Mr. Bush had a familiar rejoinder.

    "The fellow I'm running against has had about eight positions on Iraq," the president said.