It’s eight days from Election Day and the Associated Press’ Nedra Pickler has the scoop of a lifetime. “During most of the first two games of the World Series,” she writes, “the Massachusetts senator has been on a plane flying between the swing states where he’s seeking a presidential victory. But when he’s tried to keep up with the baseball scores, he’s had three strikes.”

Forget the Iraq bloodshed or the recent revelation that 380 tons of explosives disappeared from a weapons cache. Forget Social Security or provisional ballots. The real news is apparently a presidential candidates’ inability to recount the exact box score of his hometown team as he campaigns 16 hours a day.

Here’s the dirt:

Twice on Sunday, the Democrat said he was basking in Boston’s 10-9 win in Game 1 the night before.

Problem is, the Red Sox won 11-9.

Now there’s a gaffe that could tip the election. Realizing the potential harm, the Kerry campaign provided Pickler a lame dose of spin:

Kerry spokesman David Wade said the senator got the score wrong because 10-9 was the last update he got from the pilot during his late-night flight to Florida.

Not so fast, Wade. Maybe the press was duped in the run-up to Iraq and perhaps at fault for not getting out in front of the Swift Boat controversy, but they would not be had in Box Score-gate, as Pickler fired back:

Problem is, the score never was 10-9. The Red Sox won on a two-run homer, meaning they went from 9 runs to 11.

Caught red-handed the Kerry campaign had no option but to admit the obvious — Kerry gets lousy intelligence from staffers on key issues:

… Kerry adviser Mike McCurry explained to reporters, “The senator had bad intelligence on the baseball game last night.”

So many times throughout this campaign — from job numbers to the status of al Qaeda operatives — both candidates have passed on misleading facts to voters unfiltered by the press. Correctives, when offered, have often come days or months later when the damage was already done. Reporters defend themselves by observing that it’s often difficult to fact-check every detail of a candidate’s stump speech.

Yet the intrepid Pickler has just blown apart that flimsy excuse, effortlessly putting the lie to Kerry’s brazen misstatement with a simple box score.

We say, hustle her out to St. Louis so she doesn’t miss game three.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.