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First Glance

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby
Four days left...  President Bush's final campaign swing, now on day two, already seems marked by big and small awkward moments ranging from his flubbing the name of Shanksville, PA yesterday to a series of events in Ted Haggard's home state tomorrow. 

Yesterday as Bush campaigned in Nevada, a software entrepreneur who is suing his former business partner issued a statement detailing influence-peddling charges against the former partner and Rep. Jim Gibbons, the GOP nominee for governor.  Gibbons denies the claims.  And tomorrow, Bush is scheduled to spend the day in Colorado, home base of White House advisor Haggard, who has resigned from his stewardship of the National Association of Evangelicals in the face of accusations that he paid for sex with a male prostitute.  Indeed, Vice President Cheney is actually in Colorado today for a welcome-home rally with troops at Fort Carson and a rally in Colorado Springs, the seat of prominent Christian conservatives such as Haggard and Focus on the Family's James Dobson.

Bush's day yesterday also included: a reference to Shanksville, PA, site of the United Flight 93 crash on September 11, as Lancaster, PA, per NBC's Kelly O'Donnell; a rare stumble at the top of the steps of Air Force One, per the pool report; and some incident in which Air Force One apparently knocked out the runway lights when it took off from the Elko, NV airport, per NBC's David Gregory.

But in a more worrisome awkward moment, the GOP's respite from bad news on Iraq that came courtesy of Sen. John Kerry (D) appears to have ended.  The latest incident which could undermine the party's advantage over Democrats on national security is a New York Times report that the federal government put up a website on Iraqi war documents in hopes of proving that Saddam Hussein had WMD, and that the documents provide a guide to building an atom bomb. 

The news will undoubtedly overshadow the latest positive development for the GOP on the economic front.  The jobs report for October shows that the US economy picked up a mere 92,000 jobs last month, but that unemployment is at its lowest level in five years at 4.4%.  Clearly anticipating good news, the White House yesterday announced a slew of press interviews scheduled for Bush officials.

In recent times, a strong October jobs report released right around an election (depending on the year, the reports sometimes come out the Friday after election day) has usually been associated with good news for the party occupying the White House.  In 2002, the economy gained 112,000 jobs in October, which was significantly higher than that year's monthly average, and the Republicans picked up seats.  In 2004, October again brought a stronger than average gain of 338,000 jobs, and Bush won re-election. 

What occurs in an election when a poor report is released is less clear.  In 1994, when Democrats were swept from power in Congress, the jobs gain that month was significantly below average.  However, October 1998 brought another below-average jobs report, but Democrats turned out to have a surprisingly good election day.  

And in his final National Journal column before the election, NBC political analyst Charlie Cook says that Democrats appear likely to gain 20-35 House seats (maybe more) and at least four Senate seats. "A six-seat gain, enough to grab the majority, is entirely possible."

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