AUSTIN, Texas -- I finally put my money down on Tuesday, a whole week out. Kerry over Bush by two to three points in every state that matters except Florida. For those who find this an appalling, Bill Bennett-like display of disrespect for both good money and Our Nation's Future, I say, hey, no guts, no glory. Besides, Ladbrokes, the English betting firm, is offering 6 to 5 on Kerry.

            These things usually start locking down a week out at the latest, so by the last two to three days, nothing much can change it unless we get hit with a political meteorite. Bush is still putting much more money than Kerry into television ads, but the ad-blat factor has set in. Ad-blat is a combination of ad-fatigue, particularly afflicting the heroic citizens of our swing states, and the ubiquitous campaign ads of everyone from Joe Don Billups for county commission, precinct 2, to Mary Hannah Gonzalez-Chiu for state agriculture director. We live in a great nation.

            We're in the ground war now, slog time -- knock on the doors, make the calls, organize the rides, find the right polling place. The D's normally beat the R's at ground war, partly because they have a lot of union folks who know how to do it. But Karl Rove and the Republican National Committee have put a ton of money into ground war this year -- starting with outsourcing the data entry of its computer information archive to India. But I think the D's still have the edge because of the intensity factor.

            Without fear of contradiction, I can say that George W. Bush has turned out to be a divider, not a uniter, for the past four years. Sheesh, if we get any madder at each other there will be fisticuffs, brethren, I say fisticuffs.

            Liberals, normally gentle as little kittens -- usually you can go right up to 'em and touch their soft, curly fur, they don't mind a bit -- are in an alarming state of righteous anger. This time, they devoutly believe, jackbooted fascism is just around the corner. Not only do they think the Bill of Rights is being quietly dismantled, they are sentient enough to notice that our reputation around the world has gone from the instant support of Sept. 11 to disgust and fear.

            Meanwhile, many evangelical Christians are convinced gay marriage is upon us and will be the end of civilization. How they convinced themselves George W. Bush is the Lord's anointed is beyond me. I've known him since high school and watched him closely as a public official for 10 years, and I have yet to see the first sign of it.

            That belief is just as hard to dislodge as their touching faith that we found WMD in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein was connected to Al Qaeda. They believe both these things because the administration keeps claiming they are true. As far as I know, the only time Bush has directly claimed that God speaks through him was this summer before the Amish leaders. That startled everyone who thought God knew how to pronounce the word nuclear.

            Perhaps the most unreported story of this campaign is John F. Kerry. Yeah, he is sort of a boring stiff in public. Lots of people attribute that to 20 years in the U.S. Senate, where you can talk on unchecked. Actually, if you watch the video, he was a much better speaker in the Senate. The footage C-SPAN is showing of him during the important debates of his career is gripping. I think he's one of those pols who believes he has to behave like a Baptist preacher in public. If the man doesn't cuss, he's the only alum of the Navy on record to refrain.

            The more I look into his record, the more impressed I am. One of the real shames of this campaign is the attack on Kerry's war record -- outright lies, the lot of it.

            Of course his first Purple Heart was for a minor wound. As Bob Dole said of one of his, " ... a sliver of metal into my leg -- the sort of injury the Army patched up with Mercurochrome and a Purple Heart." Typical and despicable of Rove to go after Kerry's war record. But it's the Senate record that interests me more.

            Particularly three extraordinary investigations: into the connection between the Nicaraguan Contras and cocaine traffic; into BCCI, the bank used by crooks and terrorists; and the long, painful resolution of the MIA question, finally leading to resumed relations with Vietnam. Each one is remarkable -- all three together show integrity, courage and an amazing capacity for sustained hard work. The number of people with power who didn't want any of those subjects touched was legion.

            I am hopeful. If you have trouble on Election Day, call (866) OUR-VOTE, set up by the Election Protection Coalition.

            To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.