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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Back to the campaign

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
The Morning Grind

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Another former president steals the spotlight when Bill Clinton returns to the White House for Monday's unveiling of his and Hillary's official portraits.

The former first couple dutifully fades into the background after the 10:30 a.m. ET ceremony. But not for long -- his "My Life" book tour starts June 22, but the media-inspired drumroll should be in full swing by later this week.

For their part, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry return to campaign politics Monday following a week of publicly eschewing the nasty habit. Their shared focus this week: the economy. But rumblings out of Iraq, including a rush-hour bombing Monday morning in central Baghdad, and the weekend kidnapping of a Lockheed-Martin Corp. contractor in Saudi Arabia threaten to capture our gaze at a moment's notice.

Bush travels to Liberty, Missouri, after Clinton's portrait unveiling to talk about Medicare; Camp Kerry holds a news briefing and releases a state-by-state report on jobs and middle-class America, while the candidate raises money in New Jersey. Both campaigns have intensified their TV ad buys.

Bush speaks at 4:50 p.m. ET at the Liberty Community Center about Medicare-approved prescription drug discount cards.

Camp Kerry has already pre-attacked the speech in a memo distributed to reporters.

"Considering that seniors (aside from the ones produced by the Republican Party) have so far expressed almost universal contempt for the legislation, the event underscores the extent to which Bush's handlers are wearing blinders," a Kerry aide wrote in a campaign memo.

"So far, the Medicare bill and everything associated with it have been a disaster, and Bush is unlikely to get the bounce his handlers had hoped for when they decided to back the bill and alienate conservatives."

In other news

  • Also this week, aides say Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Bush/Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman will meet with Republican allies on Capitol Hill to discuss the campaign's focus on the economy and terrorism. Some allies, including Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio, have expressed concern that Bush/Cheney is doing little to convince voters that the economy is improving.
  • Also Monday, the host committee for the Republican National Convention in New York is releasing new TV and radio ads featuring former Mayor Ed Koch and Minnie, a 7,500-pound elephant. "While they're here, make nice," Koch tells New Yorkers in the TV spot. "Volunteer to show 'em the ropes. They won't know uptown from downtown. They've never ordered pizza by the slice. They don't know from alternate-side-of-the-street parking."
  • "Hey you," Koch says, in shirt sleeves and suspenders, as the camera pans over to Minnie, sitting in a no-parking zone. "Move it. It's Tuesday."

  • While Kerry and his wife, Teresa, spent a quiet weekend at their farm outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, CNN's Mike Roselli reports that the senator's campaign jet flew to New Hampshire for a little cosmetic work. The red, white and blue 757 is now sporting two huge American flags on either side of the fuselage. The 80-pound decals were applied at the Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth.
  • What's still missing, Roselli notes, is the word "for." The plane reads: "John Kerry President."

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