Kerry seizes on news article about Social Security remarks
Page 2 of 2 -- Bush aides said that they do not plan to challenge the Times Magazine over the quote, however, saying both the paper and Suskind -- as well as the news media at large -- are sharply biased against Bush's reelection. One campaign official, who declined to be identified, pointed to endorsements of Kerry yesterday by 28 state and national newspapers -- including the Times, The Boston Globe, the Miami Herald, and the Dayton Daily News -- as a measure of the media's ''dislike" for the incumbent. (At least nine large papers endorsed Bush yesterday, some in swing states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.)
''What's the point of complaining? You have a major news network [CBS] that ran a negative story about the president that was based on forged military documents. You have this article by Suskind, a known Bush hater. What difference does it make to say the president is being treated unfairly?" the campaign adviser said. Kerry senior strategist Robert Shrum, who faced off with Mehlman on NBC yesterday, held a rare conference call with reporters yesterday to mock Mehlman's statement on ''Meet the Press" and the ensuing denials of the Social Security quotation by Schmidt and other Bush aides.
''I think [Mehlman] must've gotten back to the campaign and they told him that he forgot to mislead the American people and they now had to go out and do it," Shrum said.
Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both took yesterday off from campaigning to rest up for the final 15 days of the race, and for the president to prepare for a ''major" speech in New Jersey today on terrorism, aides said.
Some of them also suggested that the day off doubled as a bit of psychological warfare, a projection of confidence to the Kerry camp, noting that independent public polls since last Wednesday's final presidential debate have suggested a tie or a multipoint Bush lead. A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday has Bush ahead by 3 percentage points among all voters and 8 percentage points among likely voters.
Kerry advisers, however, said their own Democracy Corps Poll indicates Kerry is breaking out of a tie to three points ahead nationally, with a two-point average lead in swing states. Kerry pollster Stan Greenberg said he wanted to confirm the new lead against further polls in coming days, but he tried to dispel the specter of a Bush lead in the public polls. He contended that those results have been ''all over the place" and influenced by a sampling model that does not count two groups of voters -- voters who are newly registered or plan to cast ballots for the first time in years.
After Kerry flew from Ohio to Florida yesterday, campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said the candidate would spend equal time in both states, which offer a combined 47 electoral votes, as he seeks to break out of his statistical tie with Bush in those states. She said campaign officials were feeling optimistic with nearly two weeks to go and new polls suggesting Kerry is ahead in New Hampshire -- which Bush won in 2000 -- and in strong shape in the Pacific Northwest and Michigan.
Kerry also hopes to spark new ''momentum" in Florida as he continues campaigning in the state today and tomorrow morning, as the public begins early voting for the presidential contest, Cutter said. Kerry will return to Ohio tomorrow and then campaign in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico -- the states on which the Kerry camp sees its hopes rising or falling.
Patrick Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.