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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

The 'Terminator' and the librarian

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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The Morning Grind's John Mercurio at the GOP convention.

CNN's Joe Johns on John Edwards' and Bush on terror.

CNN's Kelly Wallace on the Schwarzenegger speech to come.
Day Two: Tuesday

Theme: "People of Compassion"

7 to 11:15 p.m. ET: Speakers include Elizabeth Dole, George P. Bush (son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush), Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Laura Bush

Continuing from Monday: The roll call of the states
Do you think having New York as the convention venue will help or hinder Republicans?
Morning Grind
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
Laura Bush

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Republicans reach far more TV viewers today as the Big Three networks put the elephants in prime time.

And while Laura Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger might not offer the 9/11 creds of, say, Rudy Giuliani or the swing-state/veterans appeal of John McCain, the librarian and the "Terminator" do help President Bush with two groups we think are just as important: namely, men and women.

Aides say Laura Bush, the anti-Hillary homemaker whose marriage vows included the pledge she'd never have to make a political speech, will appeal directly to women, following up on a "W Stands for Women" event at the Waldorf-Astoria yesterday highlighting Bush family females.

The first lady has her work cut out for her. Aggregated USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Polls from last week show Bush trailing Sen. John Kerry by 5 percentage points among female voters, and a new Florida survey finds Kerry leads Bush by 9 percentage points among women.

A Los Angeles Times poll shows that Laura Bush better fits most Americans' view of what a first lady should be. (It wasn't even close, Laura beat Teresa Heinz Kerry, 56 percent to 26 percent.)

Bush is doing far better among men. But a prime-time speech by the nation's most muscular governor certainly can't hurt.

Meanwhile, a well-placed source tells CNN's Candy Crowley that former Secretary of State James Baker has agreed to lead the Bush-Cheney debate negotiations team. One source told CNN that an announcement would be made soon, perhaps just after the convention.

Sources note that the Bush campaign has not committed to the plan put forward by the Commission on Presidential Debates that calls for one VP and three presidential debates. One source said Republicans would push for just two Bush-Kerry forums.

But our gaze extends beyond New York today as Florida holds several primaries worth watching.

Heading south

Most importantly, both parties hold Senate primaries with close and ugly races brewing between very different candidates.

Bill McCollum and Mel Martinez are seeking the GOP nomination; U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch, Betty Castor and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas want the Democratic nod.

Most symbolically, Theresa LePore is seeking re-election as elections supervisor for Palm Beach County. Her notoriety in 2000 was surpassed only by then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris after she designed the "butterfly ballot" -- used, and misused, by voters across Palm Beach County.

LePore faces a stiff challenge from Arthur Anderson, who has drawn a campaign visit from Howard Dean, among others.

Republicans, meanwhile, have rallied behind LePore, hoping her re-election would justify the county's 2000 vote.

War record still issue

Speaking of symbolism, have you heard about these Purple Heart "Band-Aids"?

Several delegates at the Garden last night were sporting bandages to tweak Kerry over questions about his Purple Hearts.

One delegate told CNN that people wore the purple hearts because they were "symbolic." Democrats moved quickly to attack, calling the display "an insult to wounded veterans."

Rep. Charlie Rangel, a ubiquitous Democratic surrogate while Republicans convene in his hometown, raced to the convention hall last night to weigh in on the mini-imbroglio.

"I just hope that the president and the Republican leaders distance themselves from this and find some way to be critical of those people who have been so insensitive to those veterans who found themselves in harm's way," Rangel said.

Several delegates said the items were given out by Morton Blackwell, a Republican National Committee member from Virginia and longtime friend of Karl Rove.

Speaking of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the anti-Kerry group releases its third TV ad today. In the ad, called "Medals," an announcer says, "Symbols, they represent the best things about America. Freedom, valor, sacrifice. Symbols, like the heroes they represent, are meant to be respected. Some didn't share that respect and turned their backs on their brothers. How can the man who renounced his country's symbols now be trusted?"

Sources say the group is spending $385,000 to run the ads statewide in Florida from today through Thursday and $35,000 to run the ads tomorrow and Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee. Kerry speaks to the American Legion's annual conference in Nashville tomorrow.

Speaking of Nashville, Bush travels there today to address the veterans group. He then heads to Iowa to address the state's Farm Progress Show and ends his day with a visit to a softball game and picnic in Pennsylvania. Kerry's still in Nantucket; Sen. John Edwards visits a porch in West Virginia. (More on this below).

'Uplifting speech'

But back to Madison Square Garden, where a morning drizzle has forced CNN employees to crack open our personal evacuation kits and unpack our bright orange ponchos. If the rain keeps up, we're bracing for a vigorous debate with our friends in security over their merciless anti-umbrella policy.

One aide working with Schwarzenegger on his prepared remarks promises a "positive, uplifting speech" that will be partly biographical and will feature some mention of the "American Dream," of which the governor often cites himself as a prime example. It will be a "positive speech designed to bring people to the party." He will make it clear "who he thinks ought to be president." (Well, we certainly hope so.)

Schwarzenegger also remains the last hope for gay Republicans, who sought in vain to convince Giuliani and/or McCain to criticize the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. Giuliani and McCain declined to do so; one source told the Grind that Schwarzenegger has been more receptive to the overtures.

Speaking of prepared remarks, we were reminded last night that it's often best to stick with them. Giuliani's speech was brimming with anti-Kerry red meat designed to tickle delegates, (cable-only) TV viewers and Bush-Cheney aides. But when he deviated briefly from his text, he gave new life to the Democratic criticism Bush drew yesterday for telling NBC that the war on terrorism is unwinnable.

"I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world," Bush told Matt Lauer yesterday on "Today"

Giuliani was prepared to say, "So long as George Bush is president, is there any doubt they will continue to hear from us until we defeat global terrorism?" In delivering his remarks, he dropped "until we defeat terrorism."

To the chagrin of many Bush-Cheney strategists, Schwarzenegger's speech tonight marks his only major public event during his all-too-brief trip east.

Tomorrow, the governator travels to a Harlem school to check out an after-school program. On Thursday, he holds a roundtable for California reporters before he heads back west that evening. He's not expected to attend Bush's speech.

For his part(y), Edwards travels today to West Virginia to emphasize (quoting Edwards' spokeswoman Kim Rubey here) "that one night of compassion cannot wipe away four years of miscalculations on all the important issues facing our country."

"President Bush has finally admitted that he miscalculated on Iraq, so will he next admit that he has miscalculated on the economy?" asks the Democrats' happy warrior (that's Edwards, but we think the nickname applies to Rubey as well). "Will we next hear that his economic plan was a catastrophic success? His policies certainly have been catastrophic for the middle class, and successful for the very wealthy." Edwards is speaking at this Beckley porch-chat with the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka.

Officer beaten

Meanwhile, violence erupts outside the Garden as demonstrators knocked an undercover detective off his scooter and beat him.

Police say the officer was "repeatedly punched and kicked into unconsciousness" and was later taken to St. Vincent's Hospital for tests.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly both went to visit him last night. The incident occurred in the designated demonstration area about a block from the Garden.

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