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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 October, 2004, 00:29 GMT 01:29 UK
US election at-a-glance: 29 October
Who's winning, pictures, issues and quotes - an at-a-glance guide to the US elections as the campaign heads into its final weekend.

IN THE HEADLINES

The US media called it the October surprise - an unanticipated event that could radically reshape the election - as Osama Bin Laden sent a message to the American people just four days ahead of the election.

It was the first videotaped message from the al-Qaeda leader in two years, and the campaigns scrambled quickly to respond.

John Kerry's campaign pointed to the tape as another reason why George W Bush should have kept the focus on al-Qaeda instead of invading Iraq.

President Bush refused to comment on the political impact of the tape, but his campaign said it showed why the US must continue to take the fight to the terrorists.

Pundits said that it was unlikely that the campaigns could persuade many voters in the closing days of the election, and over the next few days the campaigns will focus on energising their supporters.

But the tape may very well remind voters of the threat of terrorism, and when asked who they feel is more capable of fighting the war on terror, voters consistently pick Mr Bush over Mr Kerry.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

The two main candidates were at opposite ends of the US East Coast on Friday, with Mr Bush hoping to shore up support in New Hampshire while Mr Kerry spent much of the day in the key battleground state of Florida.

Celebrities came out again to add their support. For a second day, rock musician Bruce Springsteen was on stage with Mr Kerry and Hollywood star and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a rare campaign appearance with Mr Bush in Ohio.

But hopes that Curt Schilling, pitcher with the Boston Red Sox - World Series champions and Mr Kerry's hometown team - would campaign with Mr Bush in New Hampshire were dashed, apparently because of an injury.

NUMBERS OF NOTE

While Mr Bush and Mr Kerry are in a dead heat, their wives are most certainly not.

Pie charts showing the favourable/unfavourable ratings of Laura Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry

Americans overwhelmingly approve of Laura Bush - with 73% holding a favourable view of her and only 16% a negative view, according to a survey by the Gallup Poll.

But they disapprove of Teresa Heinz Kerry by a narrow margin, the same poll found.

ABC News political column The Note has joked about the huge gap, adding "Laura Bush" to a pre-emptive list of excuses for a Kerry defeat.

That defeat is by no means certain, though - the latest state-by-state results from non-partisan website Electoral-vote.com have Mr Kerry on 260 votes to Mr Bush's 254.

Two states, Iowa and Michigan, are too close to call, giving neither man the 270 votes that would seal a victory.

KEY QUOTES

President Bush speaks at a campaign rally in New Mexico

I have shown the American people I can do the job in tough times. I have shown the American people I have a vision, and I have shown the American people I am consistent and true to what I believe.

George W Bush makes his case in an interview with USA Today

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a 1999 file photo

This president has ruined our reputation and destroyed our credibility and moral authority. To use a diplomatic term of art, the world is a mess.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright campaigns for Mr Kerry

BUSH PICTURE

Premature blast

President Bush is projecting an air of confidence at his carefully staged campaign appearances.

But even the best planned events sometimes suffer from minor glitches, as the president discovered on Friday in New Hampshire.

KERRY PICTURE

Rocking for the Democrats

Rockers are turning out in force for the Democrat challengers, with one of the best-known of all, Bruce Springsteen, appearing with Mr Kerry on Thursday.

But John Edwards refused to be outshone by his running mate - and had some star support of his own in Wisconsin on Friday.




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