It's Bush vs. Kerry and the stakes are enormous.

Here's why: The war on terrorism. President Bush (search) and his team believe in the doctrine of pre-emption. We get them before they get us. Isn't it better to be pro-active, rather than reactive, striking back only after more of us are dead?

John Kerry (search) thinks the United Nations and international cooperation is better. We tried that and it didn't work. This issue is too important to make a mistake.

The courts -- are we a nation of laws or of individuals? Should laws passed by our elected representatives be violated by people who want to do their own thing? This is what dictators do.

John Kerry believes the Constitution needs to be updated to reflect the times. President Bush thinks judges should not make law, but follow it. The Supreme Court will be up for grabs in the next four years. This is a big issue.

The economy -- it's improving under Bush and his tax cuts, but the president may be vulnerable on this issue because of the huge amount of spending he's signed off on. He is outspending Lyndon Johnson's great society. He'll have trouble talking about fiscal restraint in light of this record.

The culture -- the president says he favors a constitutional amendment to protect heterosexual marriage, but he probably won't campaign for it for fear of losing swing voters. There is little government can do about culture anyway.

Those hearings on Capitol Hill about indecency on radio and TV won't go far toward cleaning things up. It's all politics.

There are other issues, including Kerry's flip-flopping on scores of issues. But these are the big four.

The advantage should be with the president, but he'll have to fight as never before.

And if Usama bin Laden is captured or killed before the election, rather than working in favor of the president, it might convince enough voters that we're safe and we can take a chance on John Kerry. That's what happened to Winston Churchill (search).

Get ready for a long election season.

And that's Column One (search) for this week.

What do you think? Send your responses to: afterhours@foxnews.com.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.