As John Kerry heads to Cleveland tonight for a rally with John Edwards and Bruce Springsteen, his campaign staff is keeping a close watch on polling, get-out-the-vote efforts and early voting. So far, they like what they're seeing "I feel as good as I've felt at any point in the campaign," a Kerry aide told us as the candidate spoke in Detroit tonight. Democrats scarred by the 2000 race may have a hard time getting their minds around the idea that Kerry can take Florida from Bush, and the aide said that she, too, feels that "mental block." But the polls suggest that Florida may fall for Kerry, and the campaign staff is now believing it.
The campaign is also feeling confident about Pennsylvania, Michigan, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Minnesota and optimistic about Iowa and even Nevada. Ohio will be close, and New Mexico is a worry, the aide said. Nationally, the race is still deadlocked -- a fact Kerry aides believe will work to their advantage as undecided voters break toward Kerry. The aide said she was surprised that the race hasn't broken harder -- one way or the other -- but that she likes where Kerry stands now.
Kerry's staff seems visibly relieved that the Osama bin Laden tape seems to have passed through Americans' political consciousness without hurting Kerry. If the Iraq war were going better than it is, voters might think the success there makes the failure to capture bin Laden acceptable. But with the war "a mess," the aide said, it's harder for Bush to convince voters that it was worth diverting attention from al Qaida to focus instead on Iraq.