Trail Tales: Al Gore and 'Smash-Mouth Politics'

The election is 15 days away.

Over the weekend, a series of polls either cast the race as a dead heat or narrowly tilted in President Bush's (search) favor, despite the round of debates in which many surveys indicated John Kerry (search) came out on top.

But in the battleground states, the race is tighter than ever. And Florida — where voters can officially submit their ballots beginning Monday — is one of them.

In the final weeks of the 2004 campaign, Bush plans to highlight "bright lines and big differences" between himself and his Democratic challenger, starting with a speech on the War on Terror in New Jersey on Monday. That will be followed with a mix of discussions throughout the week on the War on Terror, support for troops, the economy and health care.

Gore: Bush 'Terrible at Governing'

Former Vice President Al Gore (search) gave another of his critiques of the Bush administration on Monday, delivering a 38-page speech at Georgetown University. This was a more subdued Gore, however, than what's been seen so far on the campaign trail this year — he stayed behind a podium and read from the teleprompter.

The theme of the speech seemed to be that the Bush administration isn't intellectually curious — and actively sought to turn away opinions it did not want to hear. Gore accused the administration of "incompetence, cronyism and corruption."

"It is clear that President Bush has absolute faith in a rigid, right-wing ideology. He ignores the warnings of his experts," Gore said. "He forbids any dissent and never tests his assumptions against the best available evidence. He is arrogantly out of touch with reality. He refuses to ever admit mistakes. Which means that as long as he is our president, we are doomed to repeat them. It is beyond incompetence. It is recklessness that risks the safety and security of the American people."

A bit later, Gore continued:

"How could a team so skilled in politics be so bumbling and incompetent when it comes to policy? The same insularity and zeal that makes them effective at smash-mouth politics makes them terrible at governing. The Bush-Cheney administration is a rarity in American history. It is simultaneously dishonest and incompetent."

The big finish was a laundry list of conservative voices that have been critical of the president. Gore then asked the audience of students to join him on Nov. 2 in "taking our country back."

— FOX News' Brian Wilson contributed to this report.

A Case of Media Bias

On Monday, the Center for Media and Public Affairs released a new study of bias and reporting in the presidential election campaign.

The group's president, Robert Lichter, told FOX News that his findings conclude the three major broadcast networks — ABC, NBC and CBS — have been decidedly pro-Kerry in their nightly newscasts. Lichter said his findings also conclude that the news reporting on FOX News' "Special Report" with Brit Hume has been fair and balanced but if the FOX News "all-star" panel of commentators is included, it tilts slightly toward Bush. That panel consists of Mort Kondracke of Roll Call, Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard and Mara Liasson of National Public Radio.

Lichter points out in his study that the panel segment is punditry and news is separate on the show.

— FOX News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.

Keeping the Faith

While Kerry was campaigning Sunday morning in a Baptist church, it was not his first time praying over the weekend. On Saturday, he was given a private Catholic mass in Chillicothe, Ohio.

While there, Father Lawrence Hummer, clearly a fan of the Massachusetts senator, criticized church officials who condemn Catholic politicians who speak out for abortion rights. Kerry supports all forms of abortion, and was not present to vote on the partial-birth abortion ban enacted into law this year.

Hummer said church officials should use patient persistence to bring pro-abortion rights Catholics into the fold.

"It is the task of the church to convince and to encourage through all patience, by word and example, those who do not agree, not to ostracize them or treat them like lepers," Hummer said.

"There are many people who think that the destruction of Iraqi life is as direct an assault on the sacred as is the taking of unborn life. There are many people who regard the death penalty as an admission of the smallness of our nature rather than evidence of our greatness."

Lifelines and Men's Room Talk

The Associated Press on Monday wrote up some one-liners from appearances on talk shows by the presidential candidates and their wives:

— "The big hang-up was George Bush wanted to get lifelines, you know, so he could call somebody." — Kerry, telling Regis Philbin why it took so long for the campaigns to agree on a debate schedule, in a reference to a contestant strategy on Philbin's game show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

— "Listen, I just want somebody to go fishing with other than Barney the dog." — Bush telling of his hopes for a future son-in-law.

— "You'd be amazed the number of people who want to introduce themselves to you in the men's room. ... It's the most bizarre part of this entire campaign." — Kerry on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

— "I fully believe he will win. But if he doesn't, we'll be perfectly all right. But we'll be devastated. I'll be devastated, of course." — Laura Bush, on "Larry King Live."

— "Well, I'll tell you, I, after three weeks, I was you know, crying and homesick. I mean, I just wasn't happy." — Kerry, on "Dr. Phil," talks about bouncing between seven schools in nine years of childhood.

— "This campaign has really given my boys a chance to see their mother in a situation that isn't mom at home, mom being wife, mom being cook, mom being mom, being the witch of the household. It's, all of a sudden, it's mom out there, really taking it in the chops every now and then." — Teresa Heinz Kerry saying her grown sons have been supportive when she is criticized for voicing her opinions on the campaign trail.

S.C.'s Mini Bottles of Booze

When South Carolina voters go to the polls Nov. 2, they will be casting their vote in support or opposition to a constitutional amendment asking if they want to do away with the tiny bottles of liquor used in restaurants and bars in that state.

South Carolina is the only state that does not allow bartenders to pour drinks from regular-size bottles of liquor. Instead, for every drink, they have to open 1.7-ounce bottles of booze.

Supporters of free-pour liquor say minibottle-only drinks need to go the way of the Confederate flag, which flew over the Statehouse dome up until a few years ago, and video gambling machines, now banned in the state.

They say drinks will become cheaper and roads will become safer because shots from normal-size bottles are much smaller.

But minibottle supporters argue that switching to free-pour drinks will leave taxpayers stuck with the tab because it will result in lower tax revenue. They also say changing the system will allow unscrupulous bartenders to water down drinks.

"Just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong," said Suzie Riga, vice president of Green's Liquors, a wholesaler that supplies minibottles to restaurants and bars.


Both presidential candidates have received a myriad of newspaper endorsements this year.

As of Sunday, Kerry has received the following endorsements: The New York Times, the Nevada Appeal, Grand Forks Herald of North Dakota, Sacramento Bee of California, The Jackson Sun of Tennessee, The Duluth News Tribune of Minnesota, The Charlotte Observer of North Carolina, The Hawk Eye of Iowa, The Free Press of Minnesota, The Daily Herald of Illinois, The Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star of Missouri, The Lexington Herald-Leader of Kentucky, the St. Petersburg Times of Florida, Akron Beacon Journal of Ohio, Bradenton Herald of Florida, The Daytona Beach News-Journal of Florida, Florida Today of Rockledge, The Palm Beach Post of West Palm Beach, South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale and The Daily Camera of Colorado.

Bush has received endorsements from: The El Paso Times of Texas, The San Antonio Express-News, The Dallas Morning News, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Las Cruses Sun-News of New Mexico, The News-Gazette of Illinois, The Pantagraph of Illinois, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram of Texas, The Indianapolis Star, The Grand Rapids Press of Michigan, The Repository of Ohio, The New Hampshire Sunday News, and The Richmond Times-Dispatch of Virginia.

Poll Watch

New polls show the race is still uncomfortably close. A Time magazine poll shows a two-point difference, with Bush taking 48 to Kerry's 46 in a three-way race with Ralph Nader, who garnered 3 percent.

In a Newsweek poll of 880 likely voters, Bush-Cheney won 50 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Kerry-Edwards. Nader and his running mate Peter Camejo earned 1 percent. The margin of error was 4 points in that poll.

Finally, in an ABC News tracking poll released Sunday of 1,582 likely voters, Bush-Cheney won 50 percent compared to 46 percent for Kerry-Edwards and 2 percent for Nader-Camejo. The margin of error is 2.5 percent.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center (search) also released a poll Friday that surveyed 655 members of the military and their families between Sept. 22 and Oct. 5. The sample was compared to a survey of 2,436 adults interviewed between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3. This survey is attitudinal because a 1948 statute prohibits polling members of the armed services about whom they intend to vote for.

In this survey, 69 percent have a favorable opinion of Bush, compared to just 29 percent who think favorably of Kerry. While 69 percent say they trust the president to handle the responsibilities of commander in chief, only 24 percent say the same about Kerry. And 64 percent said the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over.

Ad Wars

Ad: 'Bush's Mess'

Sponsor: Kerry-Edwards campaign

Narrator: "In Iraq, American troops are attacked 87 times a day. At home, the Bush administration has acquired just 530 doses of licensed anthrax vaccine for America's civilian population. In Afghanistan, the Bush administration relied on Afghan warlords to go after Usama bin Laden. He got away. Bush said ... 'I don't spend that much time on him ... I truly am not that concerned about him.' It's time for a new direction. It's time for a new direction."

Ad: 'Risk'

Sponsor: Bush-Cheney campaign

Narrator: "After Sept. 11, our world changed. Either we fight terrorists abroad or face them here. John Kerry and liberals in Congress have a different view. They opposed Reagan as he won the Cold War. Voted against the first Gulf War. Voted to slash intelligence after the first Trade Center attack. Repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the War on Terror. John Kerry and his liberal allies. ... Are they a risk we can afford to take today?

FOX News' Corbett Riner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.