msnbc.com
updated 9/17/2004 10:27:50 AM ET 2004-09-17T14:27:50

Democrat John Kerry has invested heavily in Ohio, which President Bush won four years ago with 49.9 percent of the vote.

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Since June 1, Kerry has spent 12 days campaigning in the state, which has 20 electoral votes.

A new Gallup poll released Wednesday night showed Bush winning 52 percent of likely voters in Ohio, while Kerry gets 44 percent.

Meanwhile, a Gallup survey in Missouri found Bush with a 14-point lead there among likely voters, suggesting that Bush could free up time he was planning to spend there and take the battle to Kerry’s turf in Democratic states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Oregon.

It's Bush's post-convention bounce reflected in polls of battleground states like these that lead MSNBC.com to keep the president in the lead of "White House Derby."

Elsewhere, Bush has already made 36 trips to Pennsylvania since taking office. Al Gore won the state by more than 200,000 votes, or 4.3 percent, in 2000; the Gallup poll of 718 likely voters in Pennsylvania showed a statistical tie.

Apart from the polls, the big phenomenon of this campaign week was the anticipation that preceded an event that will not occur until next week: the publication of Kitty Kelley’s book about the Bush family. NBC’s "Today" show will feature Kelley in three straight mornings of interviews.

If Democratic bloggers are a measure of the pulse of the party activists, Democrats are hoping Kelly’s book is a scandal-packed torpedo headed for the starboard side of Bush’s re-election battleship.

“In this strange, strange universe I've come to recognize as the real world, Kitty Kelley becomes the Great White Hope of liberalism,” anti-Bush blogger Matthew Yglesias wrote this week.

“In this world ... superficial as it is, merely noting that Bush's policies are failing disastrously isn't good enough. The chance that he might fall off the wagon, though, could get us somewhere. ... I was young and naive once and thought (former Treasury Secretary) Paul O'Neil (who wrote a book critical of Bush) would devastate this administration. But the world doesn't work that way, and Kitty Kelley's what we've got. I don't like it any more than you.”

Whether they like it or not, Democrats are watching to see if Kelley can do what Kerry so far hasn’t been able to do.

And Democrats took heart from a CBS News report discussing documents from the files of now-deceased Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. The documents said Killian had grounded Bush in 1972 for failure to perform to Texas Air National Guard standards and failure to take a physical.

Earlier in the week, Democrats denounced Vice President Dick Cheney for declaring that “it’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”

Democrats lashed out at Cheney, with vice presidential candidate John Edwards saying “Dick Cheney's scare tactics crossed the line today…”

As piquant and quotable in their own ways as Cheney was in his, Gore and Teresa Heinz Kerry re-entered the campaign spotlight this week.

Referring to her husband’s health insurance proposal, Heinz told the Intelligencer Journal of Lancaster, Pa., "Only an idiot wouldn't like this. Of course, there are idiots."

And Gore told the New Yorker magazine’s David Remnick that Bush’s religious faith was “the American version of the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir, in religions around the world: Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Muslim.” Remnick made it clear that Gore didn’t intend that as a compliment.

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