The election is 27 days away. Vice President Dick Cheney (search) and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) faced off Tuesday night for the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2004 election.
Have We Met?
One of the key moments in Tuesday night's vice presidential debate was when Cheney criticized Edwards' attendance record in the Senate.
"Senator, you have a record in the Senate that is not very distinguished," said Cheney, who serves as president of the Senate and says he's present for floor sessions most Tuesdays. Turning toward his opponent, Cheney added that Edwards has missed votes on so many issues that "the first time I ever met you was when I walked on the stage tonight."
Cheney noted that some from Edwards' home area have dubbed the North Carolina lawmaker as "Senator Gone."
But Cheney acknowledged soon after the debate that he was wrong about never meeting Edwards before.
Bush and Kerry campaign sources confirmed that when the candidates' families walked on stage, Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, reminded Cheney that she and the senator had in fact met him at a prayer breakfast on Capitol Hill months ago. They apparently met Cheney before they met President Bush. Kerry campaign sources confirmed that Cheney responded by saying, "Oh yes, you're right."
Prepping for a Recount
John Kerry's (search) campaign is gearing up for another recount, just in case.
Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill sent out a fund-raising e-mail Monday night asking for donations to make sure the Democratic presidential candidate is not at a legal or financial disadvantage if the race must go to a recount, as it did during the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush (search).
"Right now I need all of you to join me and make a pledge: The mistakes of the 2000 election will NEVER be repeated again," Cahill wrote in the e-mail. "The day after the election, as the recount began, Al Gore's campaign was already outgunned, outmanned and outmatched — we learned one lesson: be prepared."
For months, the Kerry camp has boasted about the 500-plus lawyers it has waiting in various states across the country to work should voting irregularities occur. Kerry aides say they have studied every ballot and election law in every state.
Kerry aides say the Cahill fund-raising memo followed official notification by the Federal Election Commission that both candidates may raise money for a little-known campaign account called the General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance Fund. GLAC funds are generally used to pay "closeout costs" after the campaign is over, such as outstanding bills, potential fines from the FEC and legal bills.
After the 2000 election dispute, then-candidate Bush sought donations for a recount fund and voluntarily limited the amounts to $5,000 per individual; he raised $14 million.
The new bipartisan campaign finance reform law otherwise limits individual donations to $2,000 apiece. According to the Kerry campaign, the FEC has not yet put a limit on the size of GLAC donations.
— FOX News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (search) received $3 million in contributions last week from two of nation's biggest Dallas-based Republican donors, Federal Election Commission records show. The group is the main independent political organization challenging Kerry's leadership and heroism during the Vietnam War.
The donors are oilman T. Boone Pickens (search) and billionaire Harold C. Simmons (search), chairman, president and CEO of Contran Corp. Pickens gave $1 million to the group on Sept. 29 and Simmons gave two donations of $1 million each on Sept. 30, FEC records show. Pickens had previously given the group $500,000.
This infusion of cash means the Swift Boat Veterans will have about $4 million to spend on anti-Kerry spots during the last month of the campaign.
The group has long said it has received the majority of its funds to bankroll attack ads criticizing Kerry's combat service in Vietnam and his record of protesting the war after he returned from combat from small donors. But these donations show well-known GOP heavyweights are providing the biggest infusion of cash in the waning days of the campaign.
Pickens donated more than $690,000 in political contributions in 2000, 2002 and 2004, the vast majority of it to Republican candidates and causes. Simmons gave $179,000 to GOP candidates and causes in 2004 and more than $200,000 in 2000 and 2002. More than two thirds of Simmons' contributions in these years went to Republican candidates and causes.
— FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report
Adding more fuel to the fire that's been dogging both presidential campaigns, the Texas Air National Guard (search) produced two more documents on Tuesday that include Bush's orders for his last day of active duty in 1973. The orders show Bush was on "no-fly" status for his last days of duty because he had been grounded almost a year earlier for skipping an annual medical exam.
The files are orders for Bush to appear for two stints of active-duty training: a 1971 exercise in Canada and eight days of duty in July 1973.
The records released Tuesday are the fifth set of documents related to Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service to be released in response to an Associated Press lawsuit. The Guard was supposed to release them by Sept. 24. It did not explain the delay in the release.
Bush's Vietnam-era Guard service has been under scrutiny lately since CBS News aired documents purporting to show that a young Lt. George Bush shirked his duties, received preferential treatment and his commanders were pressured to "sugarcoat" his record. CBS has since apologized for airing the documents, which since have been disputed as possibly fake and provided to the news network by someone who has beef with Bush.
Miller on a Tear
Democratic Sen. Zell Miller (search), the keynote speaker for this year's Republican National Convention in New York, slammed the media Tuesday for not accurately reporting Kerry's national defense record.
"They would have you believe that when it comes to national defense records, votes, and positions — they say the very DNA of Dick Cheney and John Kerry are practically indistinguishable. That they are doves from the same nest. Or maybe it's hawks now with Kerry's latest change," the retiring lawmaker from Georgia said on the Senate floor. "As silly as this assertion is, the Democrats are more than happy to make it because many in the media are only too happy to parrot it.
"There is no better proof of this than the media's response to the speech that I made at the Republican National Convention in New York City," he said.
Miller blamed the media for pushing the retorts of Democrats, some of whom even suggested Miller was losing his marbles, after he asked in his speech whether Kerry planned to equip the military with spitballs after all the defense budget cuts he has supported.
For example, he said: "And then that citadel of sanctimony, the Home of the Whopper, The Washington Post, weighed in with this totally untrue statement: 'Miller's list was mostly derived from a single Kerry vote against a spending bill in 1991, rather than individual votes against particular systems.'"
After detailing a litany of Kerry's votes regarding defense and the War on Terror, Miller summed up what he said can be learned from the media's response to his speech on Kerry's record: "The media can only find John Kerry opposing defense weapon systems that Secretary Cheney opposed also. ... So there are differences between Dick Cheney and John Kerry on national defense. It's the difference between the world's greatest military superpower and, well, spitballs.
"Mr. President, I probably have wasted my time and just spit in the ocean because we all have learned the hard way that the elite media can do anything it wants and sell anything it wants."
Following Miller's speech, Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., took the floor on a counterattack. Dorgan pointed out several instances in the past — such as on March 1, 2001 — when Miller has said Kerry has worked to strengthen the military.
"The difference is it's an election year and my colleague has apparently changed his mind," Dorgan said of Miller. "If there were an Olympic event called stretching, I have a couple personal nominations for who might win the gold medal."
— FOX News' Molly Hooper contributed to this report
Marital Mixed Message
Kerry may say he loves the fact that his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, speaks her mind, but that doesn't mean he agrees with her on everything, especially when it comes to Usama bin Laden.
Kerry told reporters Tuesday that he disagreed with the Heinz ketchup heiress' assessment that a capture of the Al Qaeda ringleader before the Nov. 2 election could be politically motivated.
He momentarily confused the man blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, saying: "I have said again and again that even if Saddam Hussein is captured or killed in the next instant, it won't change my view about how I can run a more effective War on Terror or how I can make America safer."
Correcting himself, Kerry said: "Usama bin Laden (search) should have been the complete focus of our effort in the War on Terror." He said his wife was "cautioning people against the possibility" that a capture could be politically motivated, not saying it would be.
Heinz Kerry recently predicted that bin Laden will be captured just before the election.
Busch or Coors?
Kerry headed to the Colorado mountains Tuesday to prepare for the second presidential debate, which will be held Friday. He joked to voters there that his beer options are getting more limited because they sound awfully like the names of Republican candidates.
"As I was flying in, the flight attendant came up and asked me, 'Since we're flying into Denver, would you like a Coors beer?'" Kerry asked.
A partisan crowd greeting Kerry at the airport booed because Republican Pete Coors (search) is on leave as CEO of the Coors Brewing Co. to run for the state's Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
"I said, 'Look, I can't do that. I've got (Democrat) Ken Salazar (search). He's running for the United States Senate,'" Kerry said. "She was real cute; she said, 'So, I guess I shouldn't offer you a Busch beer either, right?'"
Some news organizations did quick polls of potential voters who watched Tuesday's vice presidential debate.
An ABC snap poll said 43 percent of those surveyed called Cheney the winner, 35 percent said Edwards won and 19 percent were undecided. CBS tracked the debate with a panel of 169 uncommitted voters who could change their mind before the election. With a margin of error of 7 points, the poll showed 41 to 29 percent chose Edwards over Cheney.
Sponsor: Bush-Cheney campaign
Narrator: They voted to raise our gas taxes 10 times. And raise taxes on Social Security benefits. Higher taxes on middle class parents 18 times. John Kerry and the liberals in Congress' record on the economy: Higher taxes 350 times ... an average of once every three weeks for 20 years ... like clockwork. John Kerry and the liberals in Congress on the economy ... troubling.
Ad: 'Tort Reform'
Sponsor: Bush-Cheney campaign
Dr. Patricia Stephenson: There is a crisis in health care. There's a crisis in women's access to health care in this country.
Narrator: Maternity wards closing. OB/GYNs being forced out. The reason: frivolous lawsuits. John Kerry and the liberals in Congress side with the trial lawyers. They opposed legal reform 10 times.
Stephenson: If Mr. Kerry and his allies were elected I don't think there would be any hope for tort reform in this country.
Ad: 'Medical Malpractice'
Sponsor: Bush-Cheney campaign
Narrator: For women's health.... it's now an emergency. Our hospitals ... closing maternity wards. OB/GYNs ... forced out. Three-month waits for mammograms ... the reason: frivolous lawsuits from out-of-control personal injury trial lawyers. And John Kerry and the liberals in Congress ... stand with those trial lawyers. They've voted to block medical lawsuit reform 10 times. And that's why our good doctors are leaving.
"The Tonight Show With Jay Leno":
"My question is, if Cheney's debating, who's running the country?"
"I thought the most amazing part of the debate was when Dick Cheney told Edwards in his Darth Vader voice, 'John, I am your father.'"
"According to the latest poll, Bush and Kerry are tied at 49 percent and Nader is at one percent, and the margin of error of three percent. You know what that means? Nader is trailing the margin of error! The margin of error is two points ahead of Nader!"
"There's a move across the country to give felons the right to vote. They said in the paper right now Maine and Vermont are the only states that allow prison inmates to vote. I don't know, is that a good idea? We're talking a potential of millions of voters. Do we really want candidates trying to get the felon vote? 'I promise if elected your president, I'll take 100,000 police off the streets ... I will ban security cameras in 7-11s ... Cab drivers must carry $500 minimum ...'"
"Cat Stevens says since his run-in with Homeland Security, sales of his albums have increased. People are buying his albums since he got kicked off that plane! The Captain and Tennille said, 'Hey, how do we get on that no-fly list?'"
"Late Show With David Letterman":
"I thought Dick Cheney did pretty well. He only flatlined twice."
"Good news for John Edwards: If he doesn't win in November, he has a firm offer to be the host of 'Family Feud'."
"What Late Show Viewers Thought of the Debate: Five percent thought Cheney won, 5 percent thought Edwards won, and 90 percent watched a very special 'Gilmore Girls.'"
"Late Night With Conan O'Brien":
"Speaking of Cheney, in a recent interview, an author who's writing a book about Dick Cheney said that Cheney is misunderstood and is not a monster. Then the author admitted, 'Cheney told me if I didn't say that, he would eat my children.'"
"Late Late Show," guest-hosted by Tom Arnold:
"Did you see the vice-presidential debate? Didn't Dick Cheney and John Edwards look like Mr. Wilson and Dennis the Menace up there?"
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart":
"We turn our attention overseas now to Iraq, which is essentially the swing state in this year's election. Kind of like Ohio, only with fewer Bengals fans and more car bombs."
FOX News' Corbett Riner and Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.