WASHINGTON – The election is 46 days away.
Two new national polls show the race evening out. At the same time, President Bush continues to show strength in places that Sen. John Kerry will have to win should he expect to be the next White House occupant.
Kerry's support rebounded from the boost Bush got following the GOP convention. In a nationwide Poll Research Center (search) survey of 1,002 voters, Kerry gets 46 percent to Bush's 47 percent while independent Ralph Nader comes in at 1 percent. The survey, conducted Sept. 11-14, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
Bush and Kerry reverse position in a Harris poll of 867 likely voters conducted Sept. 9-13. The challenger gets 48 percent while the incumbent has 47 percent and Nader registers at 2 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
In the states, Minnesota remains a toss-up, with Kerry at 45 percent and Bush at 46 percent in the St. Paul Pioneer Press/Minnesota Public Radio poll. Factor in Nader, who gets 1 percent, and Kerry's backing drops two points, but with the 4 percent margin of error, anything could happen.
In Pennsylvania, Bush pulled ahead of Kerry, essentially reversing positions from a month ago. The Quinnipiac University (search) survey of 1,205 registered voters has Kerry at 44 percent and Bush at 47 percent, with a 2.8 percent margin of error.
Two new ads, one from the Democratic National Committee, the other from MoveOn PAC, harshly criticize Bush's Iraq policies.
The MoveOn ad, which shows a soldier sinking in quicksand, drew a demand from Bush Campaign Chairman Marc Racicot (search): "When John Kerry speaks before the National Guard today, he should apologize for the actions of his surrogates and demand that they take down their ad depicting a defeated American soldier."
The image in question shows the soldier with his rifle held overhead, which the Bush campaign construes as symbolic of surrender, but which MoveOn's representatives maintain is the soldier merely keeping his rifle from being fouled as he would if he were in deep water.
The DNC ad is the first of the general election campaign to use Bush's May 2003 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and the "Mission Accomplished" banner which hung behind him.
There is also a new ad from the Kerry campaign, responding to the Bush campaign's ad "Healthcare," which itself was released only Monday.
The Kerry ad comes out Friday. Entitled "Halliburton," it attacks Vice President Cheney for having received $2 million in deferred compensation from Halliburton while the company was receiving no-bid contracts in Iraq.
Source: Kerry-Edwards Campaign
Dick Cheney: "I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had for over three years."
Narrator: "The truth: As vice president, Dick Cheney received $2 million from Halliburton. Halliburton got billions in no-bid contracts in Iraq. Dick Cheney got $2 million. What did we get? A $200 billion dollar bill for Iraq. Lost jobs. Rising health-care costs. It's time for a new direction. John Kerry. Stronger at home. Respected in the world."
Kerry: "I'm John Kerry and I approve this message."
Ad: 'Not True'
Source: Kerry-Edwards Campaign
Narrator: "George Bush's health-care attack against John Kerry: Not true. The Kerry plan gives doctors and patients the power to make medical decisions, not insurance-company bureaucrats. The Bush record: a $139 billion giveaway to the drug companies. A record 17 percent increase in Medicare premiums. Five million more Americans without health insurance. George W. Bush. Wrong on healthcare. Wrong for America."
Source: Democratic National Committee
On screen: President Bush speaking on the USS Abraham Lincoln: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. the United States and her allies have prevailed."
On screen: Still picture of President Bush in flight suit with text over: "Since President Bush declared 'Mission Accomplished"
On screen: Montage of blown-up tanks, soldier weeping, soldier saluting rifle stuck in ground with helmet on top, etc.
On screen: "*867 more American soldiers have been killed in Iraq (* as of 9-10-04)"
On screen: "Cost $100 Billion."
Bush voiceover: "The economy is getting better."
On screen: Newspaper headlines: "Sharp rise in poverty"; "Record 45 million people lack coverage"; "The gap in wages is growing again for U.S. workers"
On screen: "How can you solve problems ... when you won't even admit they're there?"
On screen: "America can do better."
Announcer: "The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement."
Source: MoveOn PAC
On screen: The hot desert sands of Iraq. Everything shimmers, as though we're seeing a mirage. A tough-looking U.S. soldier appears in the distance, jogging toward us.
Narrator: "George Bush misled us into war with Iraq, sending poorly equipped soldiers into battle. He said 'Mission Accomplished,' yet almost every day more soldiers die."
On screen: "OVER 1,000 U.S. SOLDIERS KILLED"
Narrator: "Going it alone, George Bush has spent $150 billion dollars, money we need for schools and health care."
On screen: "$150 BILLION"
On screen: As the soldier gets closer, the sand seems to drag him down.
Narrator: "Now, facing a growing insurgency, he has no real plan to end the war."
On screen: The soldier sinks deeper, holding his gun above his head as the sand reaches his chest.
Narrator: "George Bush got us into this quagmire. It will take a new president to get us out."
On screen: "QUAGMIRE"
On screen: As the word dissolves, MoveOn PAC disclaimer language appears.
Narrator: "MoveOn PAC is responsible for the content of this advertisement."
From "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"
"I don't know what the big deal is about these phony documents. I mean, the last election we had phony documents too. Remember in Florida? They were called ballots."
"Senator Ted Kennedy hitting the campaign trail with John Kerry. You know what they say, two huge heads are better than one."
"Senator Kennedy has accused President Bush of incompetence. Bush fired back; he said, 'Let me tell you something, pal, my bladder is working just fine!"'
"In Vegas, Kerry accused Bush of living in a fantasy world. And everyone in Vegas immediately said, 'So? Duh!'"
"Bush and Cheney say they are targeting people who can't make up their mind. So they're hoping to get John Kerry's vote."
"Are you getting sick of this? This election is just draining — Vietnam stories, Purple Hearts, National Guard records. Is that how we're going to decide our next president? I say let's go back to the old-fashioned American way. Find the handsomest guy who's the best liar and give the job to him."