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The Morning Grind / Political Hot Topics

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Check out the links below to hot political stories around the country this morning.

JOB TALK: Bush told Missouri voters Monday that new unemployment figures suggest "the economy is strong and getting stronger." In addition, he sharply criticized Kerry for taking "yet another new position" on Iraq. Bush, who spent Monday night in Kansas City in preparation for a rally at 8:50 a.m. today in Lee's Summit, cheered the dip last month in the nation's unemployment rate to 5.4 percent.

The Kansas City Star: Economy regaining strength, Bush saysexternal link

IRAQ PUNCHES: John Kerry and President Bush clashed repeatedly over Iraq on Monday, with Kerry branding it "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" and saying he wanted all American troops home within four years, while Bush defended the war as "right for America then and it's right for America now." Their conventions behind them, the candidates spent Labor Day, the traditional start of the fall campaign season, doing what they have done for months: trading roundhouse punches over Iraq, job losses and health care.

The New York Times: Bush and Kerry clash over Iraq and a timetableexternal link

CHENEY HITS REAGAN? Speaking at the Minnesota State Fair with about 200 supporters, Dick Cheney sought to portray President Bush as triumphing over economic and national security burdens inherited from previous administrations. He blamed the Clinton and Reagan administrations for teaching terrorists that "they could strike us with relative impunity" and that "if they hit us hard enough, they could change our policy." Cheney cited the attack on United States Marines barracks in Beirut in 1983, in the first Reagan term, along with the 1993 killings of American soldiers in Somalia, a 1996 truck bombing at a housing complex in Saudi Arabia where many Americans lived, the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa and the attack on the destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000.

The New York Times: Cheney's praise of Bush takes a dig at Clinton (and Reagan)external link

CLINTON SIDELINED: Former President Bill Clinton seems unlikely to play a major role in John Kerry's campaign for the White House this fall if his recovery follows the pattern described by his doctors on Monday. Speaking to reporters at Columbia-Presbyterian Center of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where Clinton underwent heart bypass surgery on Monday morning, doctors said other patients of his age and physical condition had taken up to three months before they could fully resume an active schedule. The presidential election is eight weeks from Tuesday.

The New York Times: Big Clinton role in Kerry campaign is seen as unlikelyexternal link

CLINTON CROWD: Even from his sickbed, Bubba still draws a crowd. A swarm of well-wishers, media and even a protester turned up yesterday in front of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in Washington Heights, where former President Bill Clinton underwent successful heart-bypass surgery.

The New York Daily News: Bubba hubbub outside hospitalexternal link

GOP OPERATOR: The top heart doctor who led the team of surgeons who operated on Bill Clinton is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who gave $2,000 to President Bush's re-election bid. Dr. Craig Smith, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, wrote a check for the maximum campaign contribution last April as Bush began shoring up his war chest.

The New York Post: Surgeon a 'GOP-erator'external link

BUSH'S BOUNCE: President Bush widened his lead over John Kerry after a combative Republican National Convention reinforced questions about the Democratic candidate's leadership, especially on terrorism. As the campaign enters its last eight weeks, a CNN/ USA Today/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday shows Bush at 52 percent, Kerry at 45 percent and independent candidate Ralph Nader at 1 percent among likely voters. Before the convention, Bush led Kerry by 2 percentage points. Among registered voters, Bush was at 48 percent, Kerry at 46 percent and Nader at 4 percent in the first nationwide post-convention poll.

USA Today: Bush leads Kerry by 7 pointsexternal link

KERRY ON MEDICARE: Republicans who led chants of "flip-flop!" at the GOP convention in New York last week say they have new ammunition against Kerry, who is on record as being both for and against a provision prohibiting Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug companies. The Democratic nominee has made Medicare a significant part of his campaign, criticizing the prescription drug benefit President Bush signed into law last year.

The Boston Globe: Bush, Kerry spar over drug benefitexternal link

HECKLERS WELCOMED: With a friendly crowd in Canonsburg lobbing softball questions yesterday, Kerry could have ignored a pocket of hecklers that tried to disrupt his campaign. Instead, Kerry pulled the detractors into his Labor Day speech, part of the "front-porch discussions" he's been holding across the country. He told them their shouts and taunts couldn't cover up facts -- namely, that America has had a net loss of 1.6 million jobs under President Bush.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: In Canonsburg, Kerry jousts with hecklersexternal link

CHENEY IN THE HEARTLAND: Kerry insulted U.S. allies in Iraq by criticizing Bush's prewar diplomacy, Cheney said Monday on the first day of a two-day Iowa campaign swing. Kerry, campaigning in West Virginia, said Monday that Bush's references to an international coalition fighting alongside about 125,000 U.S. troops was "the phoniest thing I've ever heard."

The Des Moines Register: Cheney: Kerry insulted U.S. allies in Iraqexternal link

LAURA AND JOHN: First lady Laura Bush is scheduled to stump for her husband in New Hampshire during a campaign stop Friday to promote the President's "strong and optimistic" leadership, according to campaign organizers. Mrs. Bush will speak at a "Victory '04 Rally" at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester at 2 p.m. John Edwards will make his first visit to New Hampshire Thursday since the state's first-in-the-nation primary last winter.

The New Hampshire Union Leader: Laura Bush, Edwards to visitexternal link

GOING GRASSROOTS: Decades after television transformed presidential campaigns from party-based grass-roots efforts into volleys of 30-second negative ads, grass-roots campaigning has returned to Ohio. This time, technology is making old campaign methods much more sophisticated. Why? Person-to-person contact is still the most persuasive, veteran campaigners say.

The Cincinnati Enquirer: Campaigns mix old-style tactics with new toolsexternal link

SOLD OUT: Kerry holds a town-hall meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, today to discuss the economy, health care and jobs. All tickets required for admission to the event have been reserved, according to Kerry's campaign staff.

The Greensboro News & Record: Kerry campaign arrives in city for forum todayexternal link

AD WARS: Separated by 16 years, two of the most famous and controversial TV ads in presidential campaign history share a remarkable set of traits. Both were launched by nominally independent groups, not by the candidates themselves. Both aired in just a few small markets, gaining widespread exposure only through news media coverage. Both were denounced as inaccurate and unfair. And both the "Willie Horton" spot of 1988 and the 2004 campaign's initial commercial by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth slammed a Democrat from Massachusetts and helped a Republican candidate named George Bush.

The Washington Post: Two political ads share more than fame and controversyexternal link

POLITICS TO GAMES: New York plans to use its success with the Republican National Convention as another weapon in its efforts to bag the 2012 Olympic Games. The city's Olympic-bid team will make a last-minute addition to its formal pitch to the International Olympic Committee. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff -- who is leading the city's effort to host the Summer Games -- told The Post that the city plans to include "significant references" to [the convention] in its 600-plus-page bid book, which is due Nov. 15.

The New York Post: GOP-fest success boosts Olympic bidexternal link

Compiled by Mark H. Rodeffer


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