Bush Talks Education in Ohio

President Bush's campaign, setting the stage for this week's opening presidential debate on foreign policy, rolled out a new television ad Monday highlighting Democratic Sen. John Kerry's (search) statements on the Iraq war.

"How can John Kerry protect us when he doesn't even know where he stands," the ad asks.

It shows quick snippets of the Democrat's comments on the war, including "the winning of the war was brilliant," and "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time."

The Bush campaign is trying to portray Kerry as an indecisive candidate who shouldn't be trusted to serve as commander in chief.

The Kerry campaign responded, "George Bush hasn't been straight with the American people about Iraq and he isn't being straight with them about John Kerry." Said spokesman Phil Singer, "The Bush campaign's misleading, false ads are aimed at covering up the wrong choices George Bush has made in Iraq and the fantasyland descriptions he uses to cover up his failure to deal with the violence on the ground."

Both Bush and Kerry spent the weekend preparing for their first of three head-to-head pre-election debates, slated for Thursday.

On Monday, the president was returning to Ohio for the 26th visit of his presidency after an absence of a little less than two weeks. He was speaking at a county fairgrounds in Springfield on education and is due back in the state on Saturday.

Later Monday, his campaign bus was taking him to a rally in West Chester, near Cincinnati, at a park featuring a World War II-era Voice of America (search) station that transmitted broadcasts from 1944 to 1994.

Such areas of southwestern Ohio have been a Republican stronghold for decades and gave Bush large majorities that helped build his 3.6 percentage-point victory over Democrat Al Gore in the state in 2000. Now, Bush aims to make sure those margins hold so that Kerry will be unable to pick off a state he badly wants.

Ohio, along with Florida, is Kerry's biggest and best opportunity to dent Bush's advantage in the drive to amass the needed 270 electoral votes. Ohio provides 20 of those votes.

The state's unemployment rate has risen to 6.3 percent and nearly 240,000 jobs have been lost since Bush took office in January 2001.

Along with his frequent visits, Kerry is spending aggressively on television ads to court Ohio voters, but polls find him trailing Bush in the state.

Back at his ranch Monday night, Bush has a clear schedule Tuesday for debate practice sessions.

Both sides know the stakes of the debates, four in all through Oct. 13, including one between Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic opponent John Edwards. A recent national poll found that nearly one-third of those questioned thought the debates would help them decide how to vote.

On his return visit to Ohio on Saturday, Bush will address the National Association of Home Builders in Columbus, then travel by bus north to Mansfield and Akron.