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The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Kerry's Vietnam tour revisited

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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Sen. John Kerry is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Once again, deadly violence in Iraq threatens to wipe out any major coverage of the '04 campaign events, which today include President Bush's 1 p.m. ET speech to newspaper editors at Washington's Omni Shoreham Hotel, new TV ads by John Kerry and the release of Kerry's military records.

Schoolchildren were among dozens of people killed by five car bombs that exploded this morning in rush-hour traffic in two southern Iraqi towns. A military spokeswoman told the Associated Press that no members of the U.S.-led coalition were killed. It was the biggest attack in Iraq since March 17, when a car bomb killed 29 people in front of a Baghdad hotel.

Meanwhile, political eyes remain focused on Camp Kerry, which started last night to release medical and personal recordsexternal link from the senator's two tours of service in Vietnam. The document drop, while frustratingly slow for many reporters, was designed to quell GOP attacks that Kerry is hiding something in the 35-year-old records.

Instead, we predict, it's likely to shift Republican National Committee Chief Ed Gillespie's attention to Teresa Heinz Kerry's tax returns, which the Kerry campaign has (so far) refused to release. Stay tuned, we predict another drop soon.

While Kerry campaigns today in New Orleans, two new Kerry ads begin running in 17 battleground states. A Kerry aide told The Grind that the ad buys are "comparable" to recent Bush buys in the same states.

The first ad, called "Risk," features Kerry talking on camera, explaining his position on Iraq. "Let me tell you exactly what I would do to change the situation in Iraq. I would immediately reach out to the international community, and sharing the burden, the risk, because they also have a stake in the outcome of what is happening in Iraq," he says.

In the second spot, "Commitment," Kerry also looks directly in the camera, saying, "As president, I'll set a few clear national priorities for America." Kerry lists keeping the country safe, fighting outsourcing, education and health care as his priorities and says, "My commitment is to defend this country."

On the money front

Kerry campaign filings released yesterday show the senator raised $54.8 million between January 1 and March 31, including $42.8 million in March. He spent roughly $30 million in March and about $69 million since the campaign started. Since Sunday, Kerry has raised $2.8 million and $2.1 million for the Democratic National Committee. More money was still coming in last night; aides expected the total to be about $5 million for both.

At a poolside fund-raiser last night at the Sheraton Bal Harbour in Florida, Kerry was joined by former rival Sen. John Edwards. CNN's Sasha Johnson reports that Kerry delivered a standard stump speech with some Edwards lines thrown in for good measure, including "John Edwards is so smart, he's actually able to figure out what Bush is saying."

One note from a second, more high-end reception: As Kerry was saying that Bush "has been looking for distort ...", someone in the crowd yelled, "He lies." Kerry, who last month said Republicans were "the most crooked ... lying group I've ever seen," declined the invitation last night. "I won't go there," he said.

For their part, Bush-Cheney '04 had raised $53 million since January, and $26 million in March. They've spent $99 million overall, and $49.7 million during their March ad blitz.

Tit for tat

And finally today, Jack Kingston just can't let go of Monica Lewinsky. We don't want to give this guy too much attention, because that's exactly what he's seeking. But we can't resist mentioning the prepared statement that the Georgia GOP congressman released last night, giving us his unsolicited analysis of why Democrats on the 9/11 commission are so mean and partisan.

"No one is impressed with the actions of the Democratic 9/11 commission members. The commission is a reunion of political has-beens who haven't had face time since Seinfeld was a weekly show," said Kingston, who once invited Linda Tripp to speak to the House GOP conference. "In their scramble to make the evening news, they've turned this grave matter into a Get-Even-For-Monica investigation -- a switch the American people see right through."


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