Bush, Kerry on Each Other's Heels

President Bush and Democratic opponent John Kerry (search) seem to be playing a modern version of "Me and My Shadow" these days. The two presidential candidates keep popping up in the same states within days of each other — sometimes within hours.

"This is not exactly the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but maybe it's a modern media version," said Peter Bragdon, who stepped down as chief of staff for Oregon Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski (search) last month.

On Friday, the two rivals are holding simultaneous events in the Portland area, with Kerry holding a rally in downtown Portland and Bush appearing at a high school in a Portland suburb.

This comes after the candidates were just three blocks away from each other in Davenport, Iowa last week, and then showed up at different locations in Ohio in the space of a few hours. On Thursday, Bush visited the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica, Calif., at the same time that Kerry was appearing downtown.

Bush also has followed Kerry by less than 72 hours in New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. Each of those Western states being visited were decided by 6 percentage points or less in 2000. California, also on the joint itinerary, went for Democrat Al Gore by 12 percentage points in 2000.

Amy Casterline, executive director of the Oregon Republican Party, called the Portland visits "pure coincidence."

"Seeing their president here, Republicans are assured that just because we're on the West Coast, the president isn't writing us off," she said.

But Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter thinks the Bush campaign is looking at Kerry's itinerary, and then scheduling trips accordingly to try and cut into any bump in support the Democrat might get from visiting a swing state.

However, Cutter said they welcome Bush's appearances. "It highlights the differences between us," she said.

"Does Stephanie Cutter honestly believe we are following Kerry around on Air Force One?" Bush strategist Matthew Dowd said. "She has no understanding what it takes and the advance notice needed for a presidential stop, and a year from now, she still won't know."

Political experts say the similar campaign trails are not surprising since the visits are mainly occurring in swing states.

"The appearances are both intended to persuade the people who haven't made up their minds, and to make sure the people who have decided show up on Election Day," said Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Iowa.

Jim Moore, a political science professor at the Pacific University in the Portland suburbs, said there might be another factor: to keep the other guy from getting all of the attention.

"You're not letting your opponent have a free shot at those undecided voters. Neither wants the other one to dominate the front-page news," Moore said.