With the end of the Democratic National Convention, the presidential race has officially entered the home stretch, and all three papers lead stories that assess the status and end-game strategies of the candidates. In an attempt to gain support in the big Midwestern swing states, Gore began a riverboat trip that will take him through Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. Bush hit his rival where he lives, holding a one day rally in Memphis.
The Los Angeles Times centers its coverage on the tightening of the race, citing an NBC News poll that puts Gore ahead 46 percent to 43 percent, and a Voter.com poll that gives the advantage to Bush 47 percent to 42 percent. The New York Times focuses on Bush's criticism of Gore's divisive "finger-pointing" and "politicizing." At his rally in Memphis, he accused his opponent of encouraging "class warfare to get ahead." He derided Gore's promise to institute campaign-finance reform, reminding the audience of the ethical questions surrounding Gore's own fund-raising efforts in 1996 at the "Buddhist temple event." The Washington Post's coverage can best be described as geographical analysis: Bush storms Memphis as if to boast that he can win any time, anywhere, even in Tennessee, where his opponent should have a natural advantage; Gore boards the "Mark Twain Riverboat" in LaCrosse, Wisc., and makes his way south through the heartland blaring Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." in an effort to elaborate on the populist message he put out in Los Angeles.
The WP offleads a Democrat-appointed judge's admission that he leaked news of the new grand jury convened to consider indicting Clinton on charges stemming from the Lewinsky investigation. (The LAT reefers the story and the NYT runs it in the "National" section.) The White House and the Gore campaign had attributed Thursday's leak to Republicans looking to tarnish Gore's candidacy on the night of his acceptance speech. But Richard D. Cudahy (one of three judges who oversees the prosecutor's office) issued a statement that he (not a Republican operative) inadvertently revealed news about the jury to a reporter. Democrats, however, are reluctant to absolve Republicans of blame.
The NYT offlead compares Bush and Gore on how they intend to handle the budget surplus. The specific calculations vary, depending on which press releases you read, but the paper summarizes it as follows: Those who want to apply the surplus to improving health care and education will vote Democrat; those in favor of giving the money back in the form of tax cuts will vote Republican.
All three papers front updates on the Kursk. Russian authorities now acknowledge that an internal explosion ripped open the hole that sunk the nuclear sub. The Russian navy was able to dock a rescue vehicle on the escape hatch, but extensive damage to the area made further rescue efforts impossible. A British submersible with a more maneuverable docking system is due to arrive Saturday, but it's not certain to have any greater success. The WP piece catalogs the many discrepancies in Russian accounts of the accident (varying reports about when it occurred, its cause, and estimates of oxygen remaining) and notes the outcry raised in Russian newspapers at the government's unwillingness to disclose full details.
An LAT front, looking at Gore's post-convention surge in the polls, declared his acceptance speech a "hit" among undecided voters. Gore capitalized on his sincerity and "ordinary guy" persona, jumping a full 13 points in one poll. And many of those who responded favorably said they liked that he eschewed the typical political platitudes to speak about the specifics of his campaign.
The WP, however, has another take on the specifics the Gore camp has been generating. A Page 8 story takes aim at the reckless campaign rhetoric spawned by the recent conventions, refuting many of the claims recently made by Gore and Lieberman. Gore misspoke when he said that Bush's tax plan would give the "average family enough money to buy one extra Diet Coke a week ... about 62 cents in change." His text actually read "62 cents a day." But the WP indicated that even the corrected figure is specious because it's based not on an average family's income, but on the average income of families in the bottom 60 percent. The paper also qualified Democratic claims that they singly lifted the country out of a recession. The paper states that the recession of the Bush years was mild and that it had in fact ended several months prior to Clinton's inauguration. The story is less an attack on Gore than it is a warning about how easily data can be manipulated.
Global warming: An NYT front-pager reports that a mile-wide gap has opened in the ice that had fully covered the Arctic Ocean for 50 million years. The ice cover of the Arctic basin in general is 45 percent thinner than it was in the 1950s, but this is the first time water has been seen at the North Pole.