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Trail Tales: Polls and Political Pugilism

The election is 47 days away.

Poll Watch: New York and Michigan

A series of new early-September polls in New York and Michigan give Kerry the edge, but not by much.

In New York, Kerry tops Bush 49 percent to 42 percent in a Quinnipiac University (search) survey of 2,385 registered voters. Factor in independent Ralph Nader and the Bush-Kerry gap narrows a bit: Kerry, 47 percent; Bush, 41 percent; Nader 3 percent.

The numbers are in line with a Marist University (search) poll of 786 registered voters that put a 3-way race at Kerry, 48 percent; Bush, 40 percent; Nader 3 percent. But the poll also showed that Bush has growing strength in a state that normally goes for Democratic presidential candidates — Kerry's support has dropped 6 percentage points since April while Bush's backing has grown 3 percent.

In the battleground state of Michigan, a Gallup (search) survey of 673 likely voters gave Kerry the edge with 50 percent to Bush's 44 percent, while Nader got 1 percent.

Kerry Primes Public for Serious Bush Bashing

As Kerry has added more and more former Bill Clinton aides to his team in the last two weeks, he's ramped up attacks on Bush's performance — lost jobs, declining exports, record deficits. But the real target is the president's choices and wisdom — or lack of it.

"By his judgments, by his priorities, by the decisions he made, he has caused these things to happen or to grow significantly worse," Kerry said Wednesday during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club (search), a staple of presidential campaigns. "And he refuses to admit the error of those choices."

Kerry held off harsh attacks during the summer. Despite the dismay of supporters who worried he would fall behind, aides argued then that negative campaigning would turn voters off. Now Team Kerry believes voters are ready for serious Bush-bashing

"George Bush's failed record is the result of failed policies and failed choices. And he chose time and again to do nothing to improve the economy or ease the burden on middle-class families," Kerry said.

— Carl Cameron

'Unfit for Command' Not on Kerry's Reading List

Trail Tales noted Kerry's appearance Wednesday on "Imus in the Morning," but it seems we buried the lead item. The Massachusetts senator gave his most extensive comments to date about "Unfit for Command," the book that disrupted any plans Kerry had for a smooth campaign.

It seems Kerry opted not to read it. Here's the exchange:

Imus: "Did you read 'Unfit for Command?'"
Kerry: "No."
Imus: "Did anybody on your staff?"
Kerry: "I have no idea."
Imus: "Why wouldn't you want to know what's in it? It's the No. 1 New York Times [bestseller] — of course, it says 'nonfiction' bestseller."
Kerry: "Because they have right-wing people to buy them in bulk, and that's what they're doing."
Imus: "No, I understand."
Kerry: "Look, it's a pack of lies. It's an absolute pack of lies. It's been proven to be a pack of lies."

The book's author, John E. O'Neill, fired back.

"We do not know of a single fact, even one, in this book that is wrong," said the longtime Kerry adversary.

O'Neill also disputed Kerry's claim that "ring-wing people" were buying the book in bulk.

"This is just crazy," he said. "People all over the country are buying the book 'Unfit for Command' for the very simple reason that they're concerned, in a presidential election, about learning what are the qualifications of John Kerry."

— Major Garrett

'Les Habla John Kerry'

The Kerry campaign released a taped message from the Massachusetts senator to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month. The remarks were in Spanish.

"Les habla John Kerry. Los hispanos enriquecen a los Estados Unidos con su firme compromiso con la familia y la comunidad, con su ética de trabajo y su gran fe en el Sueño Americano."

Translation: "This is John Kerry. Hispanics have enriched America with their firm commitment to family and community, with their work ethic and their unwavering faith in the American Dream."

The campaign also released a new Spanish-language ad aimed at Hispanic voters on the topic of health care. Below is a translation:

Little Boy: "Daddy!"
Narrator: "One out of every three Latinos in this country lives without medical insurance."
Father: "Doctor, how are you?"
Little Boy: "Doctor, can I go home now?"
Doctor: "Of course! Um, can we speak for a moment?"
Father: "Yes, of course! Is everything all right?"
Doctor: "Yes, the child is fine. But your medical insurance does not cover all of the costs."
Father: "What?"
Narrator: "John Kerry wants all children to have access to health insurance. For a better future, vote for John Kerry."John Kerry: "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message."

Funny Files

From: "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"

"In an interview in Harper's Bazaar, Teresa Heinz Kerry said she doesn't much care for the title 'first lady.' You know the way the campaign is going, I think you'll be OK. You got nothing to worry about."

"As you know, we've been having some wild weather, and that could affect the vote on Election Day. For example: If there's a hurricane in Texas, Kerry could win. If there's a rainstorm in Massachusetts, Bush could win. And if it snows in hell, Ralph Nader will win."

"The Democrats and Republicans put aside their petty differences. This is the one day they all get together and they get something done. You know what they did today? They snuck themselves another pay raise. Sixth pay raise in six years. Isn't this unbelievable? 9-11 recommendations — 'We'll do it next year.' Confirm judges nominated three years ago — 'What's the hurry?' 'All for a pay raise?' — 'Me me me me!' Job well done."

From: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"

"Things have gotten so bad, officials have acknowledged there are several Iraqi cities now simply too dangerous for U.S. troops to enter. According to the administration, these include Samarra, where Muslim fighters are incensed over John Kerry's ill-gotten Purple Hearts, and Fallujah, where angered supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr feel Kerry is 'too liberal.'

As for Kerry's plan to improve health care by offering tax credits to employers, apparently, none too popular in Basra."

"Though Costa Rica has no army and sent neither troops nor aid to Iraq, the White House had placed it on the list of coalition members. But now, as its Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar explained, quote, 'The court has ordered me to get the country's name off that list, and that's what I'm doing.'

'Take us off the list.' At what point did America's diplomatic standing sink from superpower to annoying telemarketer?"