Washington Prowler

A Hughes Comeback

The president's missing ingredient. Plus: Kerry-Edwards means a lousy appetite.

By 8.11.04

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THE COMEBACK ADULT
While panic has not set in among senior Bush campaign advisers, there is now enough concern about the president's flagging poll numbers that the campaign is sending Bush out on whirlwind, multi-state swings at least once a week for the rest of the campaign.

Bush's appearance in Florida yesterday, as well as his travels across the country today, while not out of the ordinary for a presidential campaign, had the flavor of an underdog candidate seeking to create some artificial momentum for a campaign that some insiders think has stalled.

"They are trying to get the president into a rhythm," says an adviser to the campaign. "The president is great at these swings across the country. It energizes him and gets him focused."

It isn't lost on some campaign staff that this is one of the first trips that features the presence of Bush confidante Karen Hughes. "We needed her six weeks ago," says a campaign staffer. "But we're still confident that this campaign is doing what needs to be done on every level to ensure re-election. The media can spin whatever it wants, but we're going to win this thing. We have to."

POLITICAL INDIGESTION
Reporters traveling with Sen. John Edwards didn't put up a fight when they were essentially thrown out of the meeting between the candidate and the AFL-CIO's Executive Council in Chicago at the Drake Hotel.

Reporters on Monday were allowed to see Edwards given a standing ovation by the union bosses, then were quickly escorted out of the room before Edwards began his remarks.

According to union insiders, Edwards promised an administration that would be pro-organized labor, and one that would hit the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.

Edwards later appeared on the south side of the Windy City with Illinois candidate for Senate Barack Obama. The two walked through Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli, again with reporters kept a safe distance from the candidates.

As has been the case with both Kerry and Edwards in a number of dining establishments across the country, the Carolinian did not receive a universal warm welcome during the lunch hour appearance. Some diners grumbled about being interrupted, while others just glared at Edwards.

Kerry-Edwards advance staffers made a point of scurrying about the room, steering the candidates away from potential "trouble tables," as they are now termed. "After some of the problems in Pennsylvania and Ohio" -- where Kerry has been confronted with unfriendly receptions by individuals, a campaign source said -- "we're much more attuned to the settings we are putting them in and the potential coverage they might receive."

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