Eight marines died in fighting today west of Baghdad, making it the most lethal in six months.

A car bomb killed at least seven people in attack on an Arab television network in the capital, and Iraqi troops fired wildly on civilian vehicles, killing at least 14 people, witnesses and hospital officials said.

The U.S. military said nine Marines were also wounded in the fighting in Anbar province west of the capital which includes the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. The statement gave no further on how or where they were killed.

It was the most U.S. deaths on a single day since May 2, when nine U.S. troops died in separate mortar attacks and roadside bombings in Baghdad, Ramadi and Kirkuk.

The deaths came as U.S. forces are gearing up for a major assault on Fallujah, seen as the toughest bastion of Sunni Muslim guerrillas, ahead of crucial elections due by Jan. 31.

This can’t be good news for Bush.

And I agree with Josh Marshall: Dems need to stop worrying about the bin Laden tape. Stick with the plan and Kerry will get 55% of the vote.

After reading of pollster John Zogby’s suggestion that Bush is in trouble because he can’t get more than 48% of the vote and looked at Thursday night’s Jon Stewart show. When asked who would win the race, he didn’t hesitate: “Kerry.”

Keep the faith!

And there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. In Florida, the Dems are turning out the vote.

There are no statewide totals of early voters, and votes will not be counted until polls close on Election Day. But some counties have made numbers available, and Democrats appear to be considerably outstripping Republicans in turnout — significantly, in the belt of counties across the state’s midsection, from St. Petersburg to Orlando, the prime battleground for swing voters.

In Orange County, home to Orlando with a 5 percent Democratic edge in registration, 50,839 early votes had been cast by Friday morning — 48 percent of them Democrats and 33 percent Republicans. In Pinellas County, home to St. Petersburg, where Republicans have a slight edge in registration, Democrats have a slight edge in early voters. In heavily Democratic Broward County, almost 130,000 votes were cast, with no party breakdown; and in Miami-Dade, almost 180,000.

Mindy Tucker Fletcher, a GOP strategist, said the Democratic advantage in early voters is irrelevant because Republicans have a bigger advantage in absentee ballots.

But Colleen Murphy, a Republican official in Orange County, posted an alarmist message on the party’s Web site about the intensity and numbers of Democrats casting early ballots there.

“I want to tell you, it’s been a culture shock,” she wrote. “If you don’t get yourselves out of your routines and your comfort zones and do what is necessary to support the president between now and November 2, I’m afraid we’re all in for a little culture shock that will last beyond the next four years.”

Bushies are clearly worried. Given the turnout already, they should be. (same story)

According to the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey, 14 percent of voters had cast absentee ballots or voted by Wednesday, and an additional 11 percent said they would vote before Tuesday. In 2000, 13 percent voted before Election Day.

I still think Kerry is in the running in Virginia. GOTV!

And you tell me. Doesn’t there seem to be a lot of young people in this line waiting to vote. They will make the difference. And they should: It’s their future at stake.