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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Saturday, October 30, 2004

    The kings and queens of mean 

    Think Bush and Kerry's TV ads are getting mean? Think they're really lashing out at each other? Well, that's nothing compared to the local political ads, at least in Philadelphia.

    Most of this year's ads don't tell you what office the candidates are running for or in which district. Just what horrible things they've done.

    Apparently all we need to know - whether we live her in district or three states away - is that a vote for Ginny Schrader is apparently a vote for Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Allyson Schwartz, it seems, is left of Lenin. Lois Murphy, we're told, is pro-Taliban and - it gets worse - pro-Sierra Club!

    Desperate times, as the cliche goes, call for desperate measures.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:54 PM

    Least-anticipated trip to Hawaii. Ever. Part II. 

    It's sort of like Surivivor in the press seats on Air Force Two. While most reporters went to a rally at one stop Saturday, one was deputized to go to a bookstore to stock up on reading material for the Long Flight to Hawaii.

    Supposedly, movies will play on the Long Flight.

    So far, all for one, one for all.

    But at some point, it's bound to get ugly: Who's going to get the middle seats?

    I'm clinging to my window seat like it’s the last chopper out of Saigon, baby.

    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:39 PM

    Least-anticipated trip to Hawaii. Ever. 

    Those anguished cries you heard the other night? Those were reporters on other campaign planes convulsed with professional jealousy upon hearing news that Vice President Cheney would campaign in Hawaii.

    Cell phones and Blackberries of Cheney reporters immediately started ringing.

    "You (expletive deleted) are going to Hawaii?" was the typical incredulous question.

    Yes. But that's not a good thing. Really.

    The Hawaii trip comes at the end of a five-rally day in five states. Air Force Two will take off from Albuquerque at 6:20 p.m. for the 7-hour flight to Honolulu.

    Cheney goes to the rally, gives a speech, turns around and gets back on the plane for a flight to Colorado Springs - where he goes to a rally.

    Yes, we (expletive deleted) are going to Hawaii. Party on.

    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:37 PM

    You call that a scream? 

    Lately, Vice President Cheney has been mocking Democratic nominee John Kerry for being too weak-kneed to stand up to Howard Dean during the Democratic primaries. At a couple Cheney rallies, at the mention of Dean's name, people in the crowd have issud long, anguished yelps, a reference to Dean's candidacy-dooming scream the night he lost the Iowa caucuses.

    In Nazareth, Pa., Saturday morning, Cheney was unimpressed with one supporter's Dean impersonation.

    "That's a Howard Dean scream, I guess," Cheney said. "That's kind of a weak one, if you ask me."

    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:35 PM

    Dick Cheney, homeboy 

    Even Vice President Cheney, hardly considered a backslapping retail politician, will stoop to the occasional local pander.

    In Zanesville, Ohio, on Saturday, Cheney, who hails from Wyoming, told a campaign rally that his great-grandfather was from Defiance, Ohio, and served in the 21st Ohio Regiment during the Civil War. Cheney also said his grandfather was born there.

    "So we claim Ohio roots," Cheney said. "Seems to me you all would want to send a homeboy back to the White House."


    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:34 PM

    Fire on Edwards' plane 

    RALEIGH, N.C. - John Edwards' campaign plane had been in the air maybe 15 minutes Friday night when, back in the traveling press section, there was a loud bang, a flash of fire and cough-inducing smoke.

    "Fire!" somebody yelled, and a line of Secret Service agents rushed to the seat where it had all happened.

    The cause of all the commotion: A 9-volt lithium battery had exploded as an ABC-TV sound man was tending to his audio mixer.

    No one was hurt. But the pilot of the charter plan did make an unscheduled return to Raleigh, N.C., where Edwards - the Democratic vice presidential candidate and North Carolina's senior senator - had voted and spoke to a homecoming rally earlier Friday.

    Firefighters from the Raleigh-Durham International Airport came on board to investigate. The seat was removed. Then, the plane took off again, headed for Williamtown, W. Va., the site of what turned out to be a post-midnight rally.

    It was the second time in less than a month that there were problems on board Edwards' campaign plane. On Oct. 15, the pilot aborted takeoff on the runway because a light on the aircraft indicated a failed generator.

    Prior to the battery explosion on Edwards' plane Friday night, the loudest sound heard in the traveling press section came Thursday, when reporters covering Edwards found out that their counterparts covering Vice President Dick Cheney would be flying to Hawaii for a GOP rally.

    "We're covering the WRONG campaign!" shouted one TV network staffer.

    - Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 8:14 PM

    Spooky times on the campaign plane 

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Sen. John Edwards' two youngest children celebrated Halloween a bit early Saturday night - on Daddy's campaign plane, during the long flight from Bangor, Maine, to this beach town in Florida.

    Jack, 4, dressed up like a "Top Gun" fighter pilot and carried a plastic Jack-o-Lantern bucket. He made his way down the aisle of the charter plane to accept and dispense candy to the traveling press.

    Asked what his favorite treat was, he thought a minute, then commented: "Chocolate - dark and white."

    One TV network news staffer donned a monster mask, growled and surprised Jack, who admitted the sight scared him - but "just a little bit, not a lot."

    Later, the Democratic vice presidential candidate escorted his daughter, Emma Claire, 6, back to the press section. She was dressed like Mulan, the Chinese warrior princess who starred in a Disney animated movie.

    Edwards didn't dress up for Halloween, but he did pose briefly behind a cardboard witch's mask, complete with green skin and a nose wart.

    Also a hit, on the table where the food spread had been: A spooky skull and an amputated arm that moved.

    - Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 7:14 PM

    Basketball with brains 

    Dan Quayle - vice president under Bush 41, the first President Bush - famously messed up the United Negro College Fund motto, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

    But the creators of a Web game seem to think Bush 43, aka Dubya, is the one a few synapses short of good brain function. In their Give Bush a Brain Game, "the object of the game is to try and drop a brain into the empty head of George W. Bush."

    Players have 10 tries to get a brain into the moving target before it splats. If you make a basket, Bushie recites one of his better-known flubs. A low score gets you a snarky comment such as "Dubya looks like Einstein next to you."

    For the record, Quayle's malapropism: "What a waste it is to lose one's mind, or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:52 PM

    Friday, October 29, 2004

    Dick Cheney loves pigs. Or talking about them, anyway. 

    It's one of Dick Cheney's biggest applause lines, and he always delivers it with relish. After dismissing John Kerry as insufficiently strong on national security issues despite Kerry's tough election-year talk, Cheney says: "As we like to say in Wyoming, you can put all the lipstick you want on a pig, but at the end of the day, it's still a pig.”

    It went over so well in Montoursville, Pa., Friday evening, Cheney paused, smiled and said "That's one of my favorite lines. You want to hear it again?"

    After wild cheers, Cheney obliged.

    - Matt Stears, Kansas City Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:11 PM

    Lynne: Lawyers! Ugh! 

    Tart-tongued second lady Lynne Cheney must have a thing about lawyers. On Thursday in Sioux City, Iowa, she blamed them for keeping teachers from being able to control unruly students.

    On Friday in Eau Claire, Wis., she urged volunteers to get out enough votes to ensure a clear Election Day victory.

    "I keep reading in the paper how Democrats are going to sue here, sue there, sue everywhere," Cheney said. "Well, that's not exactly surprising. They put two lawyers on the ticket. With your help, we're gonna win big enough that thay can't even sue."

    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:06 PM

    Did Bin Laden mean to influence the election? 

    White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, traveling with Bush in Toledo, Ohio, didn't answer questions on whether Bush believes the bin Laden tape was designed to influence the election.

    "Our intelligence community has said they believe it (the tape) is authentic" McClellan said, and added "if there is actionable intelligence, we will act."

    McClellan said there will be no immediate increase in the national threat level.

    - Bill Douglas, Knight Ridder Washington Bureau

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:03 PM

    The great battleground state of Hawaii. 

    Hawaii? Reliable Democratic state, at sea over the election?

    Some polls show the race tightening in the state and the Bush campaign dispatched Vice President Cheney off to try on some leis and check out the grass skirts.

    Upon getting the word late Thursday, the Kerry camp bought a ticket for Alexandra Kerry, John Kerry's filmmaker daughter, to chase the veep down.

    Press and campaign aides salivate at the idea of volcanoes and surf. No chance. Kerry and Bush have no plans to lose stump time over the Pacific.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 9:44 AM

    Kerry wants all Springsteen all the time 

    For the Kerry campaign - and the traveling press - Thursday had real star power day. Bruce Springsteen - The Boss - was on the campaign trail but, alas, not on the campaign plane. To this jaded crowd - one that has been in close proximity, some for over a year, to a man who could be the next leader of the free world - nothing compares to the Bard from New Jersey.

    "I may be running for president of the United States, but we know who the real Boss is," Kerry told a crowd in Toledo, Ohio, one stop before Springsteen joined him Thursday in Madison, Wis. "When George Bush heard that The Boss was going to be playing with me today, he thought I meant Dick Cheney."

    Once in Madison, Kerry and Springsteen looked out over a crowd of 80,000 fans-turned-supporters, and supporters-turned-fans. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle had obviously worked hard off the Springsteen discography to prepare his introduction. Kerry, he said, was "Born in the USA." With John Kerry there will be "No Surrender." John Kerry will restore America to its "Glory Days." "We're gonna win this election from the streets of Philadelphia to Asbury Park," he concluded.

    At each mention, Springsteen laughed, but his look said "Oh God, no."

    "This is gonna be the governor's last appearance as my opening act," cracked The Boss; the crowd hooted.

    Springsteen, whose working-man anthems have made him an iconic figure in American pop culture, has always preferred to let his music reveal his politics. But he broke that tradition this year, first working with independent liberal groups on getting out the vote and then, in the closing days of the election, to campaign with Kerry himself.

    Springsteen was scheduled to appear with Kerry at an election-eve rally in Cleveland on Monday. But campaign aides said he was intrigued by what he witnessed on the campaign trail and offered to help some more.

    So now he plans to be with Kerry tonight, Friday, in Miami.

    "He asked to come to Florida after yesterday was so energizing," Kerry spokesman David Wade said.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 9:40 AM

    Lynne to Leo: You're going down, pal, just like in that lame movie 

    Second Lady Lynne Cheney lit into actor Leonardo DiCaprio Thursday.

    DiCaprio, who starred in the monster hit "Titanic" a few years back, campaigned with Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards in Iowa Thursday.

    That was only appropriate, Lynne Cheney told supporters at a rally in celebrity-starved International Falls, Minn.

    "It's the kind of symbolism I like here," Lynne Cheney said. "The Democrats are campaigning with the guy that went down on the Titanic!"

    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City (Mo.) Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 7:10 AM

    Kids acting up? Blame John Edwards! 

    At a question-and-answer session with Vice President Cheney in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday afternoon, a high school student asked how the No Child Left Behind education law could be improved.

    Cheney, as he usually does on such questions, deferred to his wife Lynne Cheney, perched on the stool next to him.

    That's when things got weird.

    In an unusually forthright admission, Lynne Cheney said "I'm not going to answer your question exactly, because I'm going to talk about how No Child Left Behind has really benefitted our schools."

    After not answering the student's question, Lynne Cheney then said, "I hate to blame the trial lawyers for everything," then blamed them for driving up medical malpractice costs, product liability costs, and, yes, bad behavior in the schools.

    "Trial lawyers are also part of the problem in not putting teachers in control of their classrooms,” Lynne Cheney said. "So I say don't vote for John Kerry and John Edwards."

    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City (Mo.) Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 7:07 AM

    Thursday, October 28, 2004

    Movie star looks 

    INDIANOLA, Iowa - They say John Edwards looks like a movie star, but Kerry-Edwards supporters at Simpson College got the real thing Thursday when Leonardo DiCaprio - or "Leo!" as some female students refer to him - showed up in the school gym to stump for the Democratic ticket.

    The star of "Titanic" and "Gangs of New York" and the upcoming "Aviator" - in which he plays Howard Hughes - joined Edwards and singer Jon Bon Jovi at the rally. DiCaprio told the students that this year's election was the most important in their young lives and urged them to get out and vote.

    Leo fans Kasie Erb, 18, and Krista Guillaume, 19, already have cast their ballots. For Kerry-Edwards. But the two Simpson students sounded more effusive about the non-politicians who spoke - and sang - before Edwards took the stage.

    "I was really excited," said Erb, who shook Leo's hand and got him to autograph her T-shirt.

    For Guillaume, the highlight was '80s rocker Bon Jovi, who played acoustic versions of "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted: Dead or Alive." He also told the students that President Bush's "arrogant, unilateral" foreign policy had put America on the defensive around the world.

    Guillaume reacted more to the sight and sound of the handsome singer. "His music ... And he's so beautiful!"

    - Tim Funk, Charlotte (N.C.) Observer

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 6:09 PM

    Hot satire 

    The Web has spawned a kind of golden age of poltical satire, with fantastic tools at the disposal of creative types everywhere. Think Jib-Jab's "This Land." Now there's this R-rated (no profanities, though) take- off that mixes the worlds of phone-chat sex lines and political spin. Check out the weapons of mass seduction at

    posted by Thomas Fitzgerald at 3:20 PM

    Curses, curses 

    Last night, Sen. John Kerry didn't even want to talk about the Curse of the Bambino as the Boston Red Sox were on the way to ending it.

    Asked about it, he put his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture. "The curse. The curse - I don't even want to say it. I don't want to say anything about it. Just hang on."

    It was a happier Kerry this morning outside his hotel in Toledo, Ohio. Violating the iron political rule of NO HEADGEAR, EVER, the senator wore a Red Sox cap, turned to reporters, raised his arms and said, "YEAH." He added, "Unbelievable. I woke up this morning - Is it really true? It's so great."

    In six days, we'll see how he does with the Curse of the Duke - Mike Dukakis, that is, the last Massachusetts lefty to get this far in politics.

    posted by Thomas Fitzgerald at 2:38 PM

    Looking like winners 

    With the campaign in its final stages, both President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry are striving to have the look of winners. Kerry showed up on the campaign trail in Toledo, Ohio, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, a bold move for a man who earlier this year studiously avoided being seen by reporters as he tried on cowboy hats in New Mexico.

    While Kerry got the Sox cap, Bush got an actual Red Sox. Pitching ace Curt Schilling, still giddy from the curse-lifting Red Sox championship, told ABC's Good Morning America viewers to vote and "vote Bush next week."

    Bush will add to his collection of athletes in Yardley, Pa., later on today when he is warmly introduced at a rally by Chad Lewis, tight end for the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.

    posted by William Douglas at 1:56 PM

    False alarm in the wee hours 

    DULUTH, Minn. - It was nearing 1 a.m. Thursday, Sen. John Edwards was getting his beauty sleep after a long day on the campaign trail, and then ...


    It was the fire alarm at the Radissan hotel in downtown Duluth and it kept blaring - loudly, insistently - for at least 20 minutes.

    About 50 patrons made their way to the hotel lobby. Including a few nervous-looking Secret Service agents, who had walked down 15 flights of stairs to check out what the @#!&* was going on. Duluth firefighters and police officers also showed up.

    But there was no sighting of Edwards, the Democrats' candidate for vice president. "He slept through the whole thing" in his room on the 15th floor, said one campaign source.

    Turns out if was a false alarm anyway. No fire. Just an "overheated dryer" in the hotel basement, reported one of Duluth's finest.

    - Tim Funk, Charlotte (N.C.) Observer

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:47 PM

    Tuesday, October 26, 2004

    Cheney to Florida: Remember all that money we gave you. Please. 

    From the all politics is local department: Cheney reminded Floridians that after the state was battered by four hurricanes earlier this year, the federal wallet opened up to help. Big time, you might say.

    "The President approved $13.6 billion for the people of Florida and other states," Cheney told crowds in West Palm Beach and Lake City to wild cheers.

    In Lake City, Cheney reminded rally attendees that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had opened an assistance center right there in town to help reconstruction efforts.

    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 2:47 PM

    Ed's life, in Dick's hands. Or something like that ... 

    One week before Election Day, Vice President Cheney sprinted across the battleground state of Florida, holding rallies in three regions of the electoral-vote rich state.

    In heavily Democratic Palm Beach County, which Al Gore won with 62 percent of the vote in 2000, flamboyant former New York City Mayor Ed Koch introduced Cheney.

    "He's a man who I would give my life to in his hands to protect," Koch gushed of the vice president, creating an intriguing if grammatically confusing visual.

    Koch's presence, in a county teeming with New York snowbirds, was an attempt to appeal to "discerning Democrats," said Cheney spokeswoman Anne Womack.

    Cheney's other events were in more reliably Republican areas in the Florida panhandle: Pensacola and Lake City.

    Cheney was scheduled to spend the night in Florida and hold one more rally there Wednesday morning before heading off to other swing states in colder climes.

    - Matt Stearns, Kansas City Star

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 2:03 PM

    Kerry, The Boss to share the stage 

    Bruce Springsteen, who's antipathy toward George W. Bush is certainly clear by now, will join the Kerry campaign later this week -- a major coup for the Massachusetts senator in the waning days of presidential contest.

    Springsteen has been actively working to defeat Bush, penning op-ed pieces in the New York Times and performing as the star attraction at a series of concerts sponsored by America Coming Together, a liberal get-out-the-vote organization.

    But The Boss had let it be known earlier this year that he preferred to advocate for a position rather than a candidate. A number of musical stars have performed for Kerry -- among them Sheryl Crow and, as recently as Monday, rocker Jon Bon Jovi.

    Springsteen will join the campaign Thursday in Madison, Wis. After perfoming here, he will travel with Kerry to Columbus, Ohio, the same day. He will return to the campaign Monday for an election eve rally in Cleveland.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 12:29 PM

    Sunday, October 24, 2004

    W is for Win, but what was that score? 

    It used to be that in the Kerry camp, "W" stood for "Wrong." That's back when "W" stood for "Walker" and in George Walker Bush.

    Now that the Red Sox are in the World Series, "W" is good. No, not that "W." Upon learning that the Red Sox won a squaker in Boston Saturday night, Kerry told fellow travelers on his plane: "A win is a win. A 'W' is what goes up" in the box scores. "A 'W' in the 'Win' column, 'Win' column."

    And, yes, a win is a win, no matter what the score. But Kerry is making the game between his beloved Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals even more of a squeaker than it was.

    As he arrived at the Mount Hermon A.M.E. church Sunday, a reporter asked how he feld about the race. "10-9, the Sox did fabulous," he answered, smiling broadly. Later, as he addressed the congregation, he declared himself blessed. "The Red Sox won 10-9," he said.

    As you check that "W" in the box score, though, check the score. The Red Sox won 11-9.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 12:46 PM

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