All you need to know in the final week before the US mid-term elections, with news of key races, issues, quotes and pictures.
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Concerned that he may damage the prospects of fellow Democrats at the polls, Senator John Kerry has apologised over his "botched joke" on the Iraq war. He had earlier refused to do so, accusing the Republicans of twisting his words.
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Mr Kerry also cancelled planned appearances to help others on the campaign trail. Media observers say his gaffe may have dented his party's cause - and Democratic candidates have been quick to distance themselves from the party's one-time presidential hopeful.
Meanwhile President George W Bush has stepped up his campaigning for Republican candidates in western states, with stops scheduled in Montana and Nevada on Thursday. Visits to Missouri, Iowa and Colorado are also planned.
While some Republicans remain reluctant to link themselves with a president with low approval ratings, others - encouraged by his combative stance against Mr Kerry - are now calling on Mr Bush's capacity to boost turnout among party faithful.
At the same time, a New York Times/CBS poll suggests dissatisfaction over the Iraq war will be the biggest factor in deciding how Americans vote. Mr Bush defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday, saying he wants him to stay in office until the end of his presidency.
Polls show many Senate races remain competitive to the end. The Democrats have pumped funds into Arizona this week, while Republicans have boosted spending in Maryland. Money is also pouring into adverts in Missouri, Tennessee, New Jersey, Montana, Michigan and Rhode Island.
Whatever the intent, Senator Kerry was wrong to say what he said. He needs to apologise to our troops
Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr
People will run the race they need to run
President George W Bush, asked about Republican candidates who have distanced themselves from his policy on Iraq
NUMBERS OF NOTE
Discontent over the Iraq war will be the deciding factor in how Americans vote, according to the final New York Times/CBS poll before the 7 November elections.
The survey suggests only 29% of Americans approve of the way Mr Bush is handling the war, matching his lowest rating in a May-June poll.
Nearly 70% said the president did not have a plan to end the war, and 80% said his latest effort to rally public support added up to a change in language, not policy.
Three-quarters of those polled expect the Democrats to reduce or end US military involvement in Iraq if they win control of Congress.
Half of independent voters said they intended to vote for Democrats, compared with 23% who said they would vote for Republicans. Both parties are seeking to win over the undecided members of the electorate.
The poll was carried out before Senator Kerry's Iraq war gaffe.
KEY RACES COUNTDOWN
The Senate race in Missouri remains neck-and-neck, with Republican Senator Jim Talent calling in party grandees to boost his campaign. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will appear with Mr Talent on Thursday and the president himself on Friday. Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill hopes to use Mr Bush's visit against her rival.
Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton showed up in Democratic candidate Harold Ford Jr's hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, to urge a victory he said would be "going beyond race".
Republican rival Bob Corker, given a slight lead by polls, said he had lent another $2m (£1m) to his own campaign to offset funds given to Mr Ford by the Democratic National Committee.
The Republican Party has launched TV adverts in Rhode Island and Montana in an attempt to thwart Democrats' hopes of taking those Senate seats. The Republicans' prospects of holding on to Ohio and Pennsylvania may be diminishing.
In Florida's 16th district, where Mark Foley resigned in September over an e-mail scandal, Republican candidate Joe Negron has benefited from big spending by the party and support from state Governor Jeb Bush. Polls show him closing fast on Democrat rival Tim Mahoney - for whom easy victory was predicted following Mr Foley's exit.
For more, see our state-by-state map.
New York Times With Iraq driving election, voters want new approach
Washington Post: Scandals alone could cost Republicans their house majority
Kansas City Star: McCaskill tries to use Bush visit against Talent
For more commentary, see our mid-terms blog.
IMAGE OF THE DAY
Both parties are pushing out the big names to campaign in key states. Here the Democrats' Bill Clinton backs Tennessee Senate hopeful Harold Ford Jr.