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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Florida votes early

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit
Political camp: University of Florida students hang out Sunday night to be the first to cast early votes in the presidential election.
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Morning Grind
America Votes 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry talks health care today in Florida as early voting begins there. Kerry will deliver what aides call an "indictment" of President Bush, who heads to the state later today, and offer a proposal to deal with the flu vaccine shortage. (No word if Kerry will be bleary-eyed after the Red Sox win at 1:23 a.m. ET.)

Speaking of long shots, Bush talks terror today in New Jersey, where Karl Rove says voters are moving to the Republican because they felt the "personal sting" of 9/11.

"From a lot of places in New Jersey you could see the towers," Rove told reporters in West Palm Beach this weekend. He said Jersey voters want someone who's resolute in fighting terror (Bush) and "does not see it as a nuisance" (implying Kerry).

But you can't see Manhattan from Marlton, the southern Jersey town where Bush is speaking today. What you can see (almost) from Marlton is Philadelphia and, more importantly, Pennsylvania's biggest media market. So while "Blue State Battleground" is the storyline being fed to national scribes, Pennsylvania is the target audience for local voters.

With that in mind, Bush-Cheney launches a new TV ad today that attacks the "worldview" of Kerry and "liberals in Congress."

"They opposed Reagan as he won the Cold War," an announcer says in the 30-second spot called "Risk." "Voted against the first Gulf War. Voted to slash intelligence after the first trade center attack. Repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror. John Kerry and his liberal allies. ... Are they a risk we can afford to take today?"

Sen. John Edwards will be in Fort Myers, Florida, at 9:30 a.m. ET to "pre-but" Bush's speech in Marlton. Later, Bush returns to Florida himself for a fund-raiser in Boca Raton. (Showdown state: Florida)

Meanwhile, four new polls out this weekend show Bush up, either within the margin of error (The Washington Post, Newsweek and Zogby) or by a solid margin (CNN/USA Today/Gallup). This, despite polls also showing that Kerry scored a 3-0 sweep of the debates.

In Tampa, Kerry lays out a plan to prevent future vaccine shortages. Under the plan, Kerry says he will: (1) crack down on the price-gouging that's putting vaccines out of reach, (2) provide incentives to manufacturers, (3) encourage more research to discover more efficient ways to produce better vaccines, (4) establish a vaccine buyback program, (5) require reporting of vaccine supplies and (6) encourage voluntary donation of vaccines.

Speaking of Tampa, The Tampa Tribune, a conservative-leaning paper that has endorsed every Republican but one for president in the last 50 years, has decided against backing Bush. Editors said they've made an "achingly difficult decision not to endorse a candidate in the presidential contest." (The Tribune didn't back Barry Goldwater in 1964.) The other major paper in the Tampa area, the St. Petersburg Times, which endorsed Al Gore four years ago, endorsed Kerry yesterday.

Also today, Gore delivers his last major policy speech of the campaign, sponsored by, at 12:30 p.m. ET at Georgetown University. The former vice president will charge Bush with a failed presidency in critical areas, including Iraq, jobs, the environment and trust in government.

Ohio in the shadows

We're talking a lot about Florida today and relatively little about the other state that may decide this election -- Ohio.

Camp Kerry's Phil Singer weighed in on this topic in his Monday "pre-mail" to reporters. "We're offering a free dinner for two on Joe Lockhart at any restaurant in Washington for the first reporter to correctly guess when Bush will be in Ohio next (second place is dinner with Joe)," Singer wrote. "Could it be that Bush's mere presence in Ohio hurts his standing in the state? More people have seen Elvis in Ohio over the last few weeks than have seen Bush. So get your entry in early!!!

For the record, Bush picked up a key newspaper endorsement from the Canton (Ohio) Repository, which said Kerry hasn't delivered a compelling reason to replace the president. Kerry was backed by the state's Dayton Daily News and the Akron Beacon Journal.

Yesterday in Ohio, Kerry, whose voice has sounded a little scratchy at times after his cold last month, made a personal shopping run in downtown Columbus. He popped into a natural food store called the Parsley Patch Wellness Center. With the media left outside, Kerry made some purchases and emerged with three bags of Ricola cough drops.

By the way, perhaps with visions of his "Lambert Field" and "Ohio State Buckeyes" slips still dancing in his head, Kerry artfully dodged his toughest question of the day in the deli. Asked by a customer if he were a Cleveland Browns or Cincinnati Bengals fan, Kerry responded, "I'm an Ohio vote fan."

Also today, more on the Ralph Nader watch. While he picked up 1 percent of likely voters in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, Nader said yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer" that he still won't quit the race.

Nonetheless, he did offer to help Democrats beat Bush by appearing in a TV ad. "If any of the Democratic fat cats want to finance a one-minute national television ad, I will go on and take Bush and Cheney apart on their record without even mentioning my candidacy or asking anybody to vote for me."

Asked specifically if he'd drop out, Nader said, "Of course not, no. Less chance than John Kerry and George W. Bush dropping out."

CNN's Megan Shattuck and Steve Brusk contributed to this report.

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