Trail Tales: What Southern Strategy?

The presidential election is 28 days away. The one-and-only vice presidential debate was Tuesday night.

It's All Where You Sit

Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for Sen. John Kerry's campaign, said the Bush campaign has expressed displeasure that Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont will be seated in the second row — in Cheney's line of sight — during Tuesday's debate. A Bush campaign spokesperson confirmed to FOX News that the Bush camp had a conversation with the Kerry campaign about Leahy's seating, but that it is no longer an issue and they no longer care about it.

Another Bush source downplayed the dispute FOX News. Leahy himself told one FOX News reporter, "I don't know why it matters, unless he has something he's feeling guilty about."

Democrats also arranged to seat Leahy directly behind Cheney's wife, Lynne.

Cheney had an exchange with Leahy in June before a Senate photo session. Cheney had a major expletive for Leahy then in response to remarks the senator had made earlier in the week suggesting the vice president's old firm, Halliburton, had been improperly profiting from government contracts in Iraq.

Leahy actually ended up sitting on the Democrats' side of the aisle in the auditorium.

Where Does Southern Strategy Work?

Just how much help is Sen. John Edwards — a one-term senator from North Carolina (who was born in South Carolina) — going to be to the Democratic presidential ticket in his native South?

Not that much actually, say political experts, but that wasn't really the point when Kerry tapped his Senate colleague and primary rival to be his running mate.

"They made the calculation from the start with this guy that he can't win his own state," said Tom Baxter, chief political writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Baxter noted that in polls, the Kerry-Edwards ticket is down by 14 points in western North Carolina (Edwards' home region) and by 6 to 8 points statewide. The last time the state voted Democratic in a presidential election was in 1976 when former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter won, but Carter couldn't repeat the feat four years later and Bill Clinton — a governor from Arkansas — didn't take it in either his 1992 or 1996 wins.

Hastings Wyman, editor of the Southern Political Report, said while Southern Democrats don't do so well in the South these days, they do have pull elsewhere.

"Democrats like having a southerner on the ticket even if they don't get the Southern vote ... having a Southerner on with a Northeastern liberal gives it some balance," Wyman said.

Poll Watch

FOX News

A new FNC/Opinion Dynamics poll of 1,000 likely voters released Tuesday shows President Bush ahead of Kerry 48 to 45 percent. In a three-way match-up, Bush is backed by 47 percent, Kerry by 45 percent and independent Ralph Nader by 1 percent.

For more FOX poll results, click here.

Now for the other standings from other outlets.

ABC News

Bush tops Kerry 51 percent to 46 percent, with Nader at 1 percent. The survey of 1,169 likely voters was done Oct. 1-3 and has a 3 percent margin of error.

Gallup/CNN/USA Today

Three different polls looking at the Bush vs. Kerry question three different ways comes out with basically the same answer — the race is tied.

The candidates get 49 percent each among 772 likely voters. Bush has a one-point advantage among 934 registered voters surveyed, 49 to 48 percent. And the president has a two-point advantage among 1,016 adults, 49 percent to 47 percent. But factor in the margin of error, and it's still anybody's election.


First, among 801 likely voters, Bush gets the edge, 49 percent to Kerry's 44 percent. Nader gets 2 percent while the undecided factor is placed at 5 percent.

Last, among 1,002 registered voters, Bush gets 48 percent, Kerry 41 percent, Nader 2 percent, and undecideds 9 percent.

Ad Wars

Ad: 'Global Test'

Sponsor: Bush-Cheney

VOICE OVER: "He said he'd attack terrorists who threaten America. But at the debate, John Kerry said America must pass a 'global test' before we protect ourselves.

"The Kerry doctrine: A global test. So we must seek permission from foreign governments before protecting America? A global test? So America will be forced to wait while threats gather? President Bush believes decisions about protecting America should be made in the Oval Office, not foreign capitals."

BUSH: "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message."

Ad: 'Lost, Despicable'

Sponsor: Kerry-Edwards

ANNOUNCER: "He lost, he's desperate. George Bush lost the debate. Now he's lying about it.

"This is what you heard John Kerry really say: 'The president always has the right for pre-emptive strike. I will hunt and kill the terrorists, wherever they are.'

"But here's something new about George Bush — newspapers report he withheld key intelligence information from the American public so he could overstate the threat Iraq posed.

"Bush rushed to war. We're paying the price. It's time for a fresh start."

KERRY: "I'm John Kerry and I approve this message."

Ad: 'Thinking Mom'

Sponsor: Bush-Cheney

MOM VOICEOVER: "Five-thirty. I need to get groceries. I'm gonna be late."

RADIO VOICEOVER: "John Kerry and the liberals in Congress have voted to raise gas taxes ten times."

MOM VOICEOVER: "Ten times.... Gas prices are high enough already."

RADIO VOICEOVER: "They voted to raise taxes on senior social security benefits and raise taxes on middle-class parents eighteen times.

"No relief there from the marriage penalty."

MOM VOICEOVER: "More taxes because I'm married ... what were they thinking?"

RADIO VOICEOVER: "Three hundred and fifty times.... Higher taxes from the liberals in Congress and John Kerry."

BUSH: "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message."

Ad: 'Stem Cell'

Sponsor: Kerry-Edwards

KERRY: "It's time to lift the political barriers blocking the stem-cell research that could treat or cure diseases like Parkinson's (search).

"I believe that science can bring hope to our families. I want America to lead the world in the medical breakthroughs of the future. There's no time to wait. At stake are millions of lives.

"I'm John Kerry and I approved this message because America can do better. It's time to take America in a new direction."

NARRATOR: "John Kerry for President."

Funny Files

"The Tonight Show With Jay Leno":

"President Bush got some bad news today: another debate on Friday."

"Political experts say President Bush was off his game. He looked distracted, confused, a little at a loss for words. Off his game? That is Bush's game!"

"Some good news from watching the debates — the terror alert on John Kerry's face has been lowered from orange back down to pasty white."

"I saw it on the cover of Newsweek, and ABC, CNN, they all said that John Kerry won the debate the other night. I just hope this doesn't give him a swelled head."

"Pundits also said that Bush seemed unprepared and looked tired. They said what Bush needs to do is two things: Study videos of John Kerry speaking and get some sleep. And the nice thing is he can do both of those at the same time!"

"I guess this debate will be different, the vice-presidential debate. Both candidates will be seated at the table. John Edwards (search) wanted a conference table and Dick Cheney (search) of course wanted an operating table."

"Late Show With David Letterman":

"People are saying that George Bush didn't do well. In fact, Kerry even picked up the support of one of the Bush twins."

"Experts are saying if this had been a game show, Bush would've gone home with a handshake and a quart of motor oil."

"Right now, Dick Cheney is practicing his 'warm sneer."'

"Late Late Show," guest-hosted by Aisha Tyler:

"Regarding Kerry's alleged cheat sheet, it turns out the object Kerry pulled out of his pocket was a pen, to which Bush responded, 'Pen? What's that? Some kinda magic cheatin' machine?'"

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart":

"We focus tonight on the aftermath of last Thursday's presidential debate. Online results posted after the event suggested Senator Kerry won by a landslide — that, or someone had a computer and enough free time to click the Kerry button a lot."

"National polls now put the candidates neck and neck, all but erasing the bounce the president received following his boisterous reception at the Republican convention. Which may be why for tomorrow's vice presidential debate, the GOP is insisting both candidates wear elephant hats and the event be moderated by the Gatlin Brothers (search). Oh, and every time Cheney scores a point? Balloons!"

FOX News' Carl Cameron, Steve Centanni, Corbett Riner and J. Jennings Moss contributed to this report.