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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead


By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

Daughters of Vice President Dick Cheney, Mary, right, and Elizabeth attend the Republican National Convention in September.
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CNN's Bruce Morton reports on controversy over Cheney's daughter.

CNN's Daniel Sieberg looks at e-voting concerns.

CNN's Bill Schneider runs a fact-check on the debate.
• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
Do you think Sen. John Kerry went too far when he mentioned VP Dick Cheney's gay daughter in Wednesday's debate?
Morning Grind
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "Get a smile on your faces, everybody!" President Bush told reporters on Air Force One last night. "Eighteen days left!"

Trust us, Mr. President, we're counting the days as well.

Then again, there's no need to count. Some folks check the sun's position in the sky instead of wearing a watch. We can just monitor the tenor of the discourse du jour to gauge when this will all be over.

We knew, for example, that it was mid-October yesterday after listening to Ma and Pa Cheney bicker with family counselor Elizabeth Edwards and John Kerry. We're speaking, of course, about the firestorm Kerry sparked Wednesday in the dry winds of Tempe -- Marygate, the brawl over Kerry's decision to "out" the VP's famously gay daughter. (Cheneys indignant about Kerry remark )

And, we suspect, if Nicolle Devenish has her way, that we'll keep speaking about it straight into the Sunday talk shows. "John Kerry, John Edwards and Mary Beth Cahill have made perfectly clear that they have made attacking Mary Cheney their policy," Devenish said in Reno yesterday.

In case you weren't one of the 51 million people who tuned in to Tempe on Wednesday, here's the senator's "attack": "We're all God's children, and I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."(Special Report: America Votes 2004, the debates)

Well, it's unclear at this early hour whether Kerry's move, which officially became inappropriate last night when Sen. John McCain deemed it so, will doom his November prospects and send him into an eternal shame spiral.

But two things we do know: First, Dick Cheney, who made a point of thanking John Edwards in Cleveland for "kind words" that nearly matched Kerry's "cheap and tawdry political trick," feels differently now. (Hey, isn't that a flip-flop?) And second, gosh, we're talking a lot less about Bush's debate performances today, aren't we? Hmmmm, imagine that.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, the criss-cross campaign continues. Bush and Kerry, both in Nevada yesterday, each head to Wisconsin today. Bush holds a rally in Oshkosh; Kerry kicks off a bus tour in Milwaukee. Earlier, Bush headed to Iowa, where Kerry and Edwards stayed overnight. Bush heads back to Florida over the weekend and then to New Jersey on Monday.

The Texan took advantage of the Western region yesterday to make some of his Kerry jabs. Making sure no one forgets where Kerry's from, Bush said in Central Point, Oregon, "My opponent says he's in touch with the West, but sometimes I think he means western Massachusetts." (Bush barnstorms Midwest)

(Something you don't see much in Boston -- reporters saw a man standing along the president's motorcade route in Central Point with a llama in tow.)

Kerry kicks off his Badger State bus tour today, which includes, among other things, a sit-down interview with CNN's Candy Crowley. For Candy's full interview, watch CNN's "Paula Zahn Now" at 8 p.m. ET tonight. (Kerry in Wisconsin)

Aides say Kerry will hit the president's record on jobs and taxes in Milwaukee and make special note of the fact that Wisconsin has lost 67,500 "good-paying" manufacturing jobs since Bush took office. That might be a hard sell, however, since Wisconsin's jobless rate runs below the national average, and voters there haven't seen the severe job losses afflicting other Midwestern battlegrounds. Bush has held a slight lead for weeks in Wisconsin, which Al Gore won narrowly in 2000.

"On November 2nd, we have a choice," Kerry will say, according to an advance copy of his speech. "We can choose a president who understands the challenges our economy is facing -- and has the vision and daring to meet them. A president who will create an economy where the doors of opportunity are once again open to our great middle class. If you give me the chance, I will be that president."

  • Kerry will also travel to Sheboygan where he'll receive the endorsement of gold-medal Olympian soccer stars (and, more important, women voters) Julie Foudy and Abby Wambach. Per a Kerry release, Foudy and Wombach spent this past weekend helping to register voters in Oregon and attending an event with Vanessa Kerry in Ohio. Clear your calendars, folks. Gore will deliver his final major policy speech of the campaign season on Monday, the last in a series sponsored by and MoveOn PAC. Gore will address critical areas such as Iraq, jobs, the environment and trust in government.
  • And finally, today, Kerry picks up key support from another former Nader Raider, Winona LaDuke, who ran as Nader's vice presidential nominee in '96 and 2000. "I'm voting my conscience on November 2; I'm voting for John Kerry," LaDuke wrote in a statement published in Indian Country Today newspaper.

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