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The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Kerry-Nader '04?

Hey, it's just as likely as Kerry-McCain, OK?

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry continues to attack President Bush on gas and oil prices Wednesday, releasing a new "report" that we understand lays blame squarely in Bush's lap.

While the gas/oil issue does have staying power, we're more intrigued by a closed-door meeting that Kerry is holding Wednesday with another '04 rival, Ralph Nader, which could have a far greater impact on the Democratic candidate's fate this fall.

Kerry and Nader, who just three days ago sniffed that the senator was ignoring his calls, will hold their long- awaited meeting at 2:15 p.m. ET at Kerry headquarters in Washington. It's their first tete-a-tete since Nader entered the presidential race.

"They are going to talk about issues we have in common for the good of the American people," Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said.

Zeese said Nader, for his part, will arrive at the meeting planning to discuss how "a two-front attack on Bush Inc. will increase the likelihood of a Bush defeat."

In other words, Zeese said, Nader has no plans to quit the race. "Both Ralph Nader and John Kerry have equal rights to run, and both will be around to the end," he said.

Nader, you'll recall, complained Sunday that the Kerry campaign hadn't returned calls after agreeing to meet. Zeese said Tuesday that "scheduling problems" had delayed the meeting and that everything "came together" this week. He declined to discuss whether Nader's public complaint helped prompt the get-together.

CNN will keep you posted on the Kerry-Nader meeting and any potential dropout -- er, fallout.

In the meantime, Camp Kerry continues its multipronged assault on Bush/Cheney on gas/oil. The report, for example, features a state-by-state analysis that includes price increase per gallon for each state, increased cost per household per year, increased cost per household with children per year and increased cost per household with teenagers per year.

But some states are more equal than others. Here are some key findings from the report in those states:

  • Families in California are paying 87 cents more per gallon since Bush took office.
  • Families in Wisconsin are spending $723 more a year since Bush took office and an average total of $2,211 per year.
  • New Hampshire families with children are paying $752 more a year and an average total of $2,446 per year.
  • Michigan families with teenagers are paying $858 more per year and an average total of $3,110 per year.
  • According to the report, farmers and the airline and trucking industries are suffering as well. Farmers are paying $1.3 billion more in fuel costs since Bush took office, while airlines have seen their costs rise $7.5 billion, the report said.

    A 21 cent-per-gallon increase in diesel fuel since 2001 has meant a $6.3 billion increase for the trucking industry, according to Kerry's report.

    Democratic surrogates are on deck as well: Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota will hold a conference call with reporters at 1:15 p.m. ET to discuss the report.

    Also Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee will launch http://www.grandoldpetroleum.com/external link, a Web site that highlights what they say are troubling ties between Bush's financial connections to big oil and broken promises and inaction on behalf of consumers.

    V.P. tea leaves

    The New Democrat Network prominently showcases New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in $600,000 worth of Spanish-language advertising slated to begin airing Wednesday in four swing states.

    In a spot that will air in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico, Richardson tells viewers in Spanish, "My priority has always been to help our community so that all Hispanics can have a better life."

    Another spot the group plans to air starting next week features Richardson saying Dems "are more than a political party; we are a movement of the people" and adding at the end of the commercial that "the journey has begun."

    Richardson is not the only Democrat in the ads. They also feature Reps. Loretta Sanchez of California and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. and Raul Martinez, the mayor of Hialeah, Florida. The five Latinos strike themes about Democrats supporting better education, expanding health-care access and job creation.

    The ads will run in Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Miami, Florida; Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma, Arizona; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. To reach more Latino voters in New Mexico, the group plans to air ads soon in El Paso, Texas, just across the state line. The group would spend $150,000 a week to run the ads for a month.

    Since late 2003, the New Democrat Network has spent roughly $1 million on TV and radio ads promoting Democrats and criticizing Bush.

    Rock the vote

    And finally today -- coincidence? Kerry may not be talking gay marriage to the press very often -- but does the selection of music speak volumes?

    While waiting for Kerry's event to begin Tuesday morning in Portland, Oregon, CNN's Mike Roselli noticed that music was being played in the press filing center. One song by a bluegrassy folk-type singer strumming a guitar included the lyrics "... Mama's got a girlfriend now."

    Ad wars

    Here are the latest presidential ad spending estimates from TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on ad spending. The group estimates ad spending in the nation's top 100 media markets. The actual spending amounts nationwide are likely higher.

    Estimated ad spending, May 10-May 16

    Kerry: At least $6.7 million

    Bush: At least $4.0 million

    Kerry and Democratic groups: At least $8.3 million

    Bush and GOP groups: At least $4.1 million

    Groups running Democratic ads: AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org, New Democratic Network

    Groups running GOP ads: Citizens United, Club for Growth

    Estimated ad spending, March 3-May 16 (general election to date)

    Kerry: At least $33.2 million

    Bush: At least $60.6 million

    Kerry and Democratic groups: At least $71.6 million

    Bush and GOP groups: At least $60.7 million

    CNN's Mark Rodeffer contributed to this report.


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