Bush vs. Frances
By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit
The Morning Grind's John Mercurio reports from the Republican National Convention.
CNN's Bill Hemmer talks with John Edwards about the RNC's tone.
CNN's Joe Johns on John Kerry's address to the American Legion.
|MAKING THEIR CASE|
Day Four: Thursday
Theme: 'A Safer World, a More Hopeful America'
7:45 to 11:15 p.m. ET: Those appearing include Mary Lou Retton, Dorothy Hamill, Lynn Swann, Cardinal Egan, George Pataki, and George W. Bush, speaking in acceptance of the Republican nomination for president
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Exactly two months before Election Day, President Bush holds a theater-in-the-round in the Garden tonight, accepting his renomination while laying out "vision," etc.
Within hours of his speech, however, Hurricane Frances could come crashing into Florida, one of the biggest battleground states, threatening to distract our gaze from the Bush-Cheney-McCain send-off. And John Kerry heads for another, Ohio.
As the Big Apple grows small in their rear-view mirror, the GOP ticket embarks on a cross-country tour starting tonight in Pennsylvania and continuing onto Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin. (Depending on Frances' wrath, look for a Florida trip to be added to Bush's schedule early next week.)
Another storm that could hit Bush-Cheney within hours of tonight's speech: An August jobs report, due out Friday morning, that economists expect to show continued sluggish growth. Democrats are already seizing on the jobs issue, noting also that Cheney only said the word "job" twice in his 2,700-word speech last night -- once while referring to his own.
Heading into a Labor Day weekend rendered largely irrelevant by the race's months-old frenzy, Kerry-Edwards roars back to life with a midnight rally in Ohio, where the first of his new TV ads debuts tomorrow.
Joining Kerry and Edwards for the Springfield rally, among others, will be spokesman Joe Lockhart, whose newness to Camp Kerry was reflected in the cell phone number aides listed for him on the campaign's latest travel memo: TBA.
We can't predict the political impact of Frances, expected to hit the Florida coast early Saturday. (Only Mother Nature, Karl Rove and Bob Shrum know for sure.) But we think it'll be big. CNN's political and meteorological units are collaborating this morning to determine the last time two C4 storms (Frances and Charley) struck a battleground state during a tight presidential campaign.
Speaking of Florida and Frances, Gov. Jeb Bush has skipped his brother's convention to prepare for the storm. But Jeb's absence didn't stop a few Sunshine State delegates from holding up "Jeb '08" signs during Dick Cheney's speech last night.
A convention worker in a yellow "W '04" hat and some other Florida delegates quickly pushed down the signs, confiscated them and removed them from the floor.
One delegate told CNN's Sasha Johnson that the signs were "inappropriate" and insisted that "Jeb didn't authorize them. ... He wouldn't want that." (Our own Kevin Bohn procured one of the signs, but it was wrestled from him by an angry Florida delegate).
In other Florida news, we'll be monitoring another big speech tonight by Cuban-American Mel Martinez, a former HUD secretary, whose win Tuesday in Florida's Senate primary gives Bush-Cheney a new lieutenant in the battle for the swing state's Cuban/Latino vote.
Martinez's victory was the second piece of bad news for Kerry in Florida this week -- Ralph Nader was placed on the state's ballot Tuesday as the Reform Party candidate.
Meanwhile, Salon.com offers us a tropical storm of its own today with new details and questions about Bush's service in the Alabama National Guard.
The widow of a Bush family confidant says her husband gave Bush an Alabama Senate campaign job as a favor to his worried father at the time the elder Bush was serving as director of the CIA.
Did they see Dubya do any National Guard service? "Good lord, no," says Linda Allison, whose late husband Jimmy was a close Bush friend in the 1970s. (More on this below).
Back to Bush, who arrived in New York late yesterday, won a nice firefighters' endorsement in Queens and spent the night at a suite in the Waldorf-Astoria.
He said last night that he would "lay out a vision [tonight] for a safer world and a more hopeful America." Per a campaign aide, Bush's speech will offer more detail about a second-term agenda that includes helping people buy homes, simplifying the tax code, improving job skills, creating new business opportunities and setting up tax-free retirement and health care accounts.
Overall, Rove told the AP, the president's acceptance speech is Bush's time to talk about the future, the accomplishments of his first term, and himself. "It gives people a chance to get reacquainted with him personally," Rove said. "In a time of war, a president becomes more a commander in chief and less the familiar person that they knew before. And this gives him a chance to refresh people's memories."
A well-placed GOP source tells Convention Daily that, in addition to retired General and Florida voter Tommy Franks' scheduled speech tonight, several other flag officers will give testimonials prior to Bush's acceptance address.
The Kerry campaign pre-ttacks Bush's speech today at 12:30 p.m. ET when former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman and former Social Security Administrator Ken Apfel hold a conference call to preview the "old ideas, failed ideas and bad ideas" Bush is expected to talk about.
Kerry's new TV ads begin airing tomorrow in Ohio, followed next week in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Florida, New Mexico and Iowa, sources told the Grind. Bush-Cheney's ads start Tuesday.
Camp Kerry is also running ads later this fall in West Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Arizona, Michigan, Maine, Washington state, Oregon, Nevada, Missouri and Minnesota. One state that notably didn't make Kerry's list -- Virginia, where Democrats spent $2.5 million this summer trying to compete. The Old Dominion is now safely red, again.
Throwing $50 million down in one ad buy offers Kerry both risks and benefits. Biggest risk: It reveals Kerry's electoral strategy to Bush-Cheney, who surely will be most surprised to hear that Dems still want to play in Louisiana and Arkansas. Biggest benefit: Kerry, who spent more money on ads in August than he wanted to, can lock in current ad rates, which tend to go up in pre-election weeks of October.
And finally, as promised, some highlights from "George W. Bush's Missing Year," Mary Jacoby's story on www.salon.com. In the spring of 1972, George H.W. Bush phoned his friend and asked a favor: Could Allison find a place on the Senate campaign he was managing in Alabama for his troublesome eldest son, the 25-year-old George W. Bush?
"The impression I had was that Georgie was raising a lot of hell in Houston, getting in trouble and embarrassing the family, and they just really wanted to get him out of Houston and under Jimmy's wing," Allison's widow, Linda, told me. "And Jimmy said, 'Sure.' He was so loyal."
Linda Allison's story, never before published, contradicts the Bush campaign's assertion that George W. Bush transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama National Guard in 1972 because he received an irresistible offer to gain high-level experience on the campaign of Bush family friend Winton "Red" Blount.
In fact, according to what Allison says her late husband told her, the younger Bush had become a political liability for his father, who was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, and the family wanted him out of Texas. "I think they wanted someone they trusted to keep an eye on him," Linda Allison said.