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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

The dog days cometh

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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Morning Grind

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Welcome to August, the normally lazy summer month, which this year looks to be colored by terror alerts, wildly fluctuating presidential poll numbers and stepped-up political attacks that both campaigns say they'll continue through the Olympics.

While President Bush remains in the capital today and prepares to act on the 9/11 commission recommendations, Kerry-Edwards roll into the fourth day of "Believe in America" (1,206 miles down, 2,394 to go).

They release a new book with a self-explanatory title, "Our Plan for America: Stronger at Home, Respected in the World." Bush-Cheney dismisses the 263-page tome as "late by a day, me-tooism."

The Democratic candidates split up today, amicably; Kerry stumps in Michigan and Wisconsin, where he's expected to encounter more of the rain that dampened his weekend crowds.

Edwards makes three stops in Florida (Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville); scattered thunderstorms also are expected there.

There's another shift-change underway at Kerry-Edwards: Shocked perhaps by the notable drop in the number of TV cameras in tow since he left Boston, actor Ben Affleck departed the campaign trail last night, replaced this evening in Milwaukee by Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl.

Dick Cheney speaks at a rally for troops at Northcom in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and later travels to Lubbock, Texas, to speak at a fund-raising reception for U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer.

Terror threats

But today is expected to be dominated by terror, or at least the threat of it. After receiving a 40-minute security briefing last night in Ohio, Kerry told reporters he'll comment today on the Bush administration's decision to raise the terror threat level Sunday.

One aide said Kerry will likely do so today during a town hall meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Asked last night if he believes the Bush administration hyped the terrorist threat, a senior foreign policy adviser to Kerry said, quickly and flatly, "No."

Of course, other Democrats feel differently and have already weighed in, including Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean.

''I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism,'' Dean told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" yesterday. ''It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it.''

Camp Kerry moved quickly to distance itself from Dean's comments. "Howard Dean speaks for himself," one aide told CNN. As for Lieberman, we're told, he does too.

Dick Gephardt will host a conference call today at 12:45 p.m. to release planned locations for Kerry and Edwards' tour across Missouri this week.

But back to the Kerry-Edwards book, which offers up the Democratic ticket's platform, with pictures from the campaign trail and speeches. "We offer this plan because we believe this election should be about ideas to lift America up, not negative attacks that drag America down," Kerry and Edwards wrote.

Per a campaign aide, the book adds detail to the ideas Kerry has talked about in the months leading up to last week's convention. The first chapter outlines Kerry's plans to stop terrorism and improve domestic security.

He has said he would rebuild international alliances, modernize the American military and use American influence in military, diplomatic and cultural matters to promote peace.

Bush-Cheney spokesman Steve Schmidt notes that 31 of 33 Kerry proposals are already being done. "Be on the lookout for 'late by a day, me too-ism,'" Schmidt writes in a memo to reporters.

And finally this morning, our eBay item of the day: An official White House photo of the late Ronald Reagan with Teresa and John Heinz. Signed and inscribed by Reagan: "To Teresa and John -- With every good wish & warm regard." Bidding starts at $7,500 -- so far, no takers.


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