The Republicans are apparently tired of running against John Kerry.

Now they're running against Teresa.

True, candidates' wives usually avoid "girl-on-girl slaps," as my colleague Hanna Rosin put it. True, THK handed her opponents a big stick with which to club her, and had to rush out an apology. True, dissing Laura Bush is probably not a winning electoral strategy. But is this more important than, oh, I don't know, American soldiers dying in Iraq?

Especially when the first lady was gracious enough to brush it off?

Actually, the story just got a second wind. Turns out the USA Today interview in which THK said Laura never had a "real job" was part of a joint project with PBS, meaning that Jim Lehrer has the footage. Which, in turn, means that the 412 talk shows that have already kicked this around will be able to show the video and kick it around some more.

"Will it affect the women's vote?" asked Bill O'Reilly. On CNN, Bay Buchanan said it was a big deal and Donna Brazile said it was irrelevant. And on and on.

(By the way, how does Camouflage Kerry have all this time at the end of a campaign to go hunting? He shot an Ohio goose yesterday. Are swing-state geese more valuable than those in red or blue states?)

We don't really vote for first lady. She kind of comes with the package. But if the candidates are going to have their wives out there campaigning for them, I guess they have to take their lumps when the spouse goes off message.

Former Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock takes her swings on

National Review: | http://nationalreview.com/comment/comstock200410210910.asp"'Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids,' Teresa Heinz Kerry said last month to New York relief workers sending supplies to victims of Hurricane Ivan. 'Let's just say that remark probably wasn't in her talking points,' said one Democratic source described at the time as being close to the Kerry campaign.

"The recent diversion from the talking points by the woman John Kerry's daughters reportedly refer to as 'Step Money' came in an interview with USA Today, in which Teresa apparently decided First Lady Laura Bush was 'fair game' for attack: 'Well, you know, I don't know Laura Bush. But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good. But I don't know that she's ever had a real job -- I mean, since she's been grown up.'

"Remember when, during the Democratic convention, Teresa Heinz lectured us: 'It is time for the world to hear women's voices -- in full and at last'? While the Kerry campaign seems to have sidelined Teresa's 'full voice' as much as possible -- sending her to such hot battlegrounds as Texas -- every once in a while Teresa's true 'voice' appears -- whether she's telling a reporter to 'shove it' or saying a Bush re-election would be 'four more years of hell' or saying 'only an idiot' wouldn't support her husband's big-government health-care plan...

"Okay, so she sort of apologizes to teachers and librarians for saying theirs aren't 'real jobs.' Did she really forget Laura Bush was a librarian and teacher? It's not like the First Lady's past is a big secret.

"But Teresa still hasn't apologized to stay-at-home mothers for implying that they don't have 'real jobs.' Certainly, we aren't supposed to believe that she 'forgot' Laura Bush was a mom."

Radio man Hugh Hewitt takes the microphone at the Weekly Standard: | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/805zjzny.asp

"When the would-be first lady decided to take a shot at Laura Bush in yesterday's USA Today by stating that Mrs. Bush had never held a 'real job,' she committed the rarest of things--a triple gaffe. Like triple plays in baseball, these are rarely seen in these days of well-coached candidates and spouses. But Tuesday's was one for the ages.

"First, it is bad form--very bad form--to speak in anything other than the most complimentary terms of your opponent's spouse. It's just tacky. But after the assault on Mary Cheney's privacy by John Kerry, Mary Beth Cahill, and Elizabeth Edwards, I guess more appearances of the merely tacky should not surprise.

"Blunder two was to denigrate, by omission, the professions of teacher and librarian. Ms. H-K quickly figured out these were interest groups in good standing in the Democratic party and rushed out an apology: She had 'forgotten' Laura's service as both. Not believable, of course, but acceptable damage control.

"The worst part of the Ms. H-K triple feature was failing to mention Laura Bush's 'real job' as a mom. The apology crafters were no doubt in a bind when it came time to deal with that oversight."

Noam Scheiber to the rescue, offering advice at the New Republic: | http://www.tnr.com/etc.mhtml

"By now you've probably heard Teresa's Hindenburg-like comment questioning whether Laura Bush has ever held a real job. No doubt the Bush campaign, after its initial expression of outrage, is going to let this comment pass, choosing instead to wage the final two weeks of the campaign on the issues. But, just in case, here are a few suggestions to the Kerrry campaign for how to defuse the situation:

"1.) Make Teresa into your own Sister Souljah. . . . Kerry's aides should book Teresa and him for back to back appearances on Oprah. Midway through his appearance, Kerry should look Oprah in the eye and say, 'You had a rich foreign woman on here yesterday whose comments last week were filled with a kind of contempt for working women that you do not honor on this show. Just listen to what she told USA Today: 'Well, you know, I don't know Laura Bush. . . . I don't know that she's ever had a real job--I mean, since she's been grown up.' If you took the words Laura Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry and reversed them, you might think Dick Cheney was giving that interview.'

"2.) See the Republicans' righteous indignation and raise them one. The Kerry spinners could attack the White House for dragging Teresa into the political campaign, when in fact she's just an innocent private citizen. Kerry could hold a press conference, in which he speaks not as a politician but as a citizen and husband, in order to denounce the Bush campaign as 'a cabal of bad men' who'll 'say anything to get the president elected,' even if it means attacking his wife. Democratic surrogates could whisper about how sleazy it was for the White House to out Teresa as a foreigner.

"3.) Attack Bush as a serial flip-flopper. According to Bill Minutaglio's biography First Son, George W. Bush once described Laura as 'the perfect wife for a governor,' not the type 'to butt in and always, you know, compete. There's nothing worse in the political arena than spouses competing for public accolades or the limelight.' Now all of a sudden Bush is proud of his hard-working wife and her independent career. Well, which is it Mr. President? Is your wife uppity or isn't she?"

The Washington Times | http://washingtontimes.com/national/20041022-120846-3334r.htm conjures up a nightmare scenario of Teresa's World:

"Federally funded Botox clinics. Diamond pickle pins. Fish stew for state dinners, followed by green tea and Portuguese pound cake. Pre-nups and private Gulfstream jets. Hermes bags, aromatherapy, homeopathic remedies and $4,000 Chanel suits. No more twin sets. No more twins. Blowsy hair, brassy mouth and bossy boots.

"Is mainstream America ready for Teresa Heinz Kerry, a woman who radio host Don Imus wonders might be 'too crazy to be first lady'"?

I love those choices. Teresa: Public Menace or Simply Insane? More when we come back.

On the trail, meanwhile, it was another day of trading charges:

"Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday denounced the Bush administration's limit on federal funding for stem cell research as 'morally wrong and economically wrong,' while the president took swipes at Kerry's healthcare proposals, denouncing them as 'big government' solutions," says the

Los Angeles Times. | http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/2004/la-102104kerry_lat,1,6023633.story?coll=la-home-headlines"Another day of frantic campaigning started with Kerry, wearing a camouflage jacket and bearing a shotgun, taking a brief hunting trip for wild goose in Ohio, an excursion that was mocked by the Bush campaign as a shallow attempt to woo gun rights activists.

"Later in the day in a Columbus theater, the Democratic presidential candidate, joined by Dana Reeve, the widow of actor Christopher Reeve, told about 1,200 people that he blamed the White House's 'extreme ideological agenda' for blocking scientific advancements that could be achieved through expanded stem cell research. 'More than 100 million Americans today suffer from illness or injury that could, could -- I underscore, could -- one day be cured or treated with stem cell therapy, research that is supported by our scientists, by Nancy Reagan, by Arnold Schwarzenegger, by Michael J. Fox, by the Reeve family, by people across party lines, without ideology,' Kerry said."

At least he didn't have them hopping out of their wheelchairs, as John Edwards did last week.

"The Bush campaign accused Kerry of distorting the president's position, noting that he was the first to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cells."

Same campaign, same day, different emphasis from the Chicago Tribune: | http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/elections/chi-0410210278oct21,1,1999399.story?coll=chi-electionsprint-hed

"As the campaign for president becomes increasingly vitriolic, Sen. John Kerry and President Bush visited north-central Iowa on Wednesday, with each portraying the other as incompetent to lead the war against terrorism.

"Kerry charged that Bush is not doing his job, is out of touch with reality, and is engaged in misleading Washington-speak that has made the nation weaker when it comes to terrorism and Iraq. . . .

"Bush criticized recent remarks by Kerry adviser and former Clinton-administration UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as a symbol of the minimalist attitude of the Democrats. Holbrooke recently was quoted in The New York Times Magazine as saying 'we're not in a war on terror in the literal sense' and said it was a metaphor in the same sense as the 'war on poverty.'

" 'Confusing food programs with terrorist killings reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the war we face, and that is very dangerous thinking,' Bush said. 'The next commander in chief must lead us to victory in this war, and you cannot lead a war when you don't believe you're fighting one,' the president said."

The Boston Globe | http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/kerry/articles/2004/10/22/gingerly_kerry_plumbs_politics_of_guyhood/ serves up a piece on Getting Into Guyness:

"Bleary-eyed from watching the Red Sox past midnight and getting up before dawn to go goose hunting, John F. Kerry emerged from his armored sport-utility vehicle near midday yesterday, pumping his fist and pointing to his Sox cap -- which was in his hand, not on his head.

"As the Democratic presidential nominee closes out his campaign for the White House, the baseball gods have presented some political analysts with a compelling story-line: Kerry's hometown team is competing for the World Series at the same time the Massachusetts senator is attempting to score his own underdog victory in the race for the White House. . . .

"Kerry and his aides are wrestling with how to take advantage of the confluence of events, and limit the risk in doing so.

"A Red Sox defeat would align Kerry with a loser, while his appearance at the World Series could trigger a chorus of boos within the ballpark, as happened in August when he threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park."

Kerry will be hurt if the Sox lose? Could they possibly be overthinking this?

Wondering about the Kerry administration? The Washington Post | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52688-2004Oct21.html has the latest Cabinet speculation.

Just when you thought the campaign couldn't sink any lower:

"Are you ready for the dirtiest week and a half of politics since Eve got talked into that bite of the apple?" says American Prospect's Terence Samuel | http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=8795.

"A man in Defiance, Ohio, has been arrested for registering false Democratic voters in exchange for crack cocaine. The charge is election fraud, which the GOP says it is gravely concerned about. This smells -- and not just of smoke, either. Meanwhile, at the other end of the state, John Kerry's name was deleted, accidentally, from absentee ballots that were delivered to the Forest Park neighborhood, a predominantly black section of Cincinnati.

"There was never any question about how ugly, dirty, or nasty this campaign for president was going to be. But there are some ads on radio stations in Ohio that would embarrass you in the company of your mother. This is particularly true on black radio, where the GOP, acknowledging a huge vulnerability if there is high black turnout, is trying to hold those numbers in check. (Among the charges: Democrats and liberals are ruining black kids, not giving them the kind of educational opportunity they deserve. They are also attacking the troops while they are at war and of making us less safe from terrorism.)

"Toxic stuff."

Slate's Chris Suellentrop | http://slate.msn.com/id/2108429/ is not exactly thrilled with Kerry's rhetorical approach:

"The campaign gives reporters the text of each of Kerry's speeches 'as prepared for delivery,' apparently to show how much Kerry diverges from them. During his stump speeches and town halls, Kerry makes the occasional Bush-style error, such as the time I saw him tell a blind man in St. Louis that he would 'look you in the eye.'. . . .

"Kerry proves incapable of reading simple declarative sentences. He inserts dependent clauses and prepositional phrases until every sentence is a watery mess. Kerry couldn't read a Dick and Jane book to schoolchildren without transforming its sentences into complex run-ons worthy of David Foster Wallace. Kerry's speechwriters routinely insert the line 'We can bring back that mighty dream,' near the conclusion of his speeches, presumably as an echo of Ted Kennedy's Shrum-penned 'the dream will never die' speech from the 1980 Democratic convention. Kerry saps the line of its power. Here's his version from Monday's speech in Tampa: 'We can bring back the mighty dream of this country, that's what's at stake in these next two weeks.'

"Kerry flubs his punch lines, sprinkles in irrelevant anecdotes, and talks himself into holes that he has trouble improvising his way out of. He steps on his applause lines by uttering them prematurely, and then when they roll up on his TelePrompTer later, he's forced to pirouette and throat-clear until he figures out how not to repeat himself. He piles adjective upon adjective until it's like listening to a speech delivered by Roget."

Numerous wordy examples follow.

With all the apocalyptic scenarios floating around about Election Day, The Note | http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/TheNote/story?id=156238 offers this one:

"If President Bush takes what seem now to be the two most likely Blue-to-Red pickups (Wisconsin and New Mexico), and Kerry takes his two (New Hampshire and Ohio), the Electoral College would be tied at 269-269, leading to a Bush victory in the House of Representatives."

I don't suppose that would be too controversial.