After 60 Minutes punted on releasing with the New York Times the missing explosives story -- which has now at the very least been largely discredited -- the TV show attempted to coordinate with Democratic sources on at least one last ditch story to air on Halloween night, according to a Democratic Senate staffer.
One of the stories involved the politics of the $87 billion vote Kerry failed to support to provide troops in Iraq with equipment. The other possible story: the Halliburton investigation.
According to the Democratic leadership staffer in the Senate, the 60 Minutes producers were calling around looking for political stories that could be packaged quickly, before the election.
"We raised the $87 billion dollar vote, because what everyone misses in that vote is that had we not had the Bush tax cuts, the military probably would have gotten all that body armor and the like months before they went to war. The Bush tax cuts denied the military those funds," says the staffer, who wasn't directly involved in pitching the story. "They were intrigued, but I don't know what they did with it."
The other nonstory was the ongoing Halliburton saga. On Thursday, the Associated Press broke what some thought might be a story, but which turned out to be a nonstarter. The office of Sen. Frank Lautenberg had been talking to 60 Minutes producers about the whether they would want to do something on the Halliburton investigation. But when it was unclear whether 60 Minutes would commit to the story, Lautenberg faxed off a letter addressed to Vice President Dick Cheney to the media three hours before it was faxed to the White House, asking Cheney to cooperate with an FBI investigation into Halliburton. One problem: on Friday the FBI confirmed it hasn't targeted anyone, making it unclear whether any new investigation is underway.
"This was Lautenberg trying to make something out of nothing," says a Republican Senate staffer. "We get the same briefings he gets on this kind of thing, and there was nothing to it."
While a number of early voting surveys show President Bush with about a 15 percent edge over Sen. John Kerry (D-Viet.), some Bush campaign staffers are nonetheless concerned about the timing of when those votes were being made.
"There is little you could control about those votes, in terms of the information the voter had in hand at the time," says the campaign staffer. "You don't know, could that person's vote have been different had they seen the bin Ladin tape. Or had they heard Kerry crassness a few more times. You just don't know. And it is that uncertainty that drives you nuts."