Down to the wire

Both presidential candidates are focusing their efforts on fewerthan a dozen states that remain highly competitive, with both campsmaking last-minute scheduling decisions to reflect realities on theground.

Kerry campaigned from New Hampshire to Wisconsin during the dayby way of Pennsylvania and Michigan. Aides mapped a plan for a72-hour marathon leading to Election Day.

Bush went from his ranch in Texas to Colorado, Iowa andWisconsin as he sought the 270 electoral votes needed for a secondterm.


U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn ruled that Florida is notrequired to create a paper record of ballots to be available incase of a recount. In somewhat of an understatement, Cohn said thecase “is of great public importance,” and promised to issue awritten order quickly to permit an appeal.

Al Gore urged Florida voters on Monday to transform any leftoveranger from the 2000 presidential outcome into energy for John Kerryand to vote early to avoid a repeat of the disputed election.

Speaking at an early voting site, Gore said a lot had happenedsince the Supreme Court’s decision that gave Florida to George W.Bush, and yet he said much was the same.

“Where do I start? Four years seems like four hours,” Gore said.”We are in the same struggle for our country’s future.”

He said he still feels strongly that the Supreme Court decisionwas wrong but that he respects the institution.

Gore was in the second day of a two-day swing through Florida atearly voting sites urging voters to cast ballots before the Nov. 2election.

“The time to vote is today,” Gore said.

The Supreme Court

Supreme Court officials announced that Chief Justice William H.Rehnquist, 80, is undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer and isexpected to return to work next week. The statement served as areminder that the next president is likely to have more than oneappointment to an aging court that is divided on abortion, gayrights and more.

Missing weapons

In Philadelphia, Sen. John Kerry cited the Iraq war and a hugecache of missing explosives Monday as proof President Bush has”failed the test of being commander in chief.”

“Terrorists could use this material to kill our troops, ourpeople, blow up airplanes and level buildings,” Sen. Kerrysaid.

The Republican slammed his rival as “consistently anddangerously wrong” on national security matters.

In a race of ever-escalating rhetoric, the president alsoaccused the Democratic challenger of “the worst kind ofMonday-morning quarterbacking” on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.But he fell silent on the disappearance of 377 tons of highexplosives in Iraq, leaving it to aides to explain.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Pentagon hadasked international monitors to look into the missing explosivesand whether they are being used against U.S. forces.

He said the first priority was to make sure there was not anuclear proliferation threat.

National security

In Minnesota Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney assailed Kerry’srecord on national security as misguided and misleading.

The vice president zeroed in on Kerry’s remarks over the weekendabout a book he wrote a decade ago titled, “The New War,” declaringthat the Democrat has been “sort of burnishing his credentials inthe counterterrorism area.”

In the book, Kerry “talks about Yasser Arafat as a statesman …I’ve never looked on Yasser Arafat in quite that light,” Cheneytold hundreds of supporters.

Kerry “talks about the primary answer to terrorism being lawenforcement,” Cheney added. “If you think only law enforcement isthe way to respond to terror, you’ve got a pre-9/11 mind-set;there’s no mention in the book of al-Qaida.”

The Kerry campaign said Cheney had taken a sentence in the bookout of context.