President Bush (search) rallied supporters in Arizona on Tuesday, repeating his charges against his opponent John Kerry (search), whom the president has described as a big spender and weak defender of U.S. security.
"We have ... competing visions on government, and we have a different view of the War on Terror. It's not just to be reduced as a nuisance; it is to be defeated by using all the might of the United States and spreading freedom as an alternative," Bush told an audience standing in the heat of Paradise Valley.
The rally was similar to one the president held earlier in the day in Colorado, where he took the opportunity to attack Kerry for voting for wars in Iraq (search) and Afghanistan but against funding for troops and reconstruction there.
"Kerry ... said, 'This is a complicated matter.' There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat," Bush said while campaigning in front of military supporters in Colorado Springs during his fifth trip to the Centennial State. Four years ago, Bush won the state's nine electoral votes by receiving 51 percent of the vote.
For his part, the Massachusetts senator decided to lay low on Tuesday ahead of the third and last presidential debate between the two candidates before Election Day. The final debate will be held at Arizona State University in Tempe.
In the debate, being moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News, Kerry is expected to say that if elected, he will fight for middle-class families. He plans to charge that Bush only cares about the wealthy business class, and is also expected to target the president on job losses, rising health care costs and high gas prices.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said while in Arizona, the president will visit with "senior staff" but would not hold formal debate preparations.
The debate is at 9:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday and can be viewed on FOX News Channel.
Kerry is in Santa Fe, N.M., preparing for the debate on domestic issues ranging from health care to the economy. His campaign aides said Kerry is going into the debates with the same plan he has had so far — winning them.
Kerry was going to head to Phoenix on Tuesday night but decided to stay in Santa Fe overnight, where he is expected to do some more rehearsing, take a bike ride and watch the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox playoff game.
Kerry campaign officials appear very confident about their boss's chances on Wednesday. They say polls show Kerry won the first two debates and now that the last debate is on domestic policy, Kerry will be operating from his stronger territory.
Campaign officials argue that polls show Kerry leads Bush by double digits on health care, the environment and education, among other domestic issues, and Bush only leads on tax cuts. Kerry aides say Wednesday's debate is time for a final knockout punch against Bush, and add that in modern history no candidate who has lost the presidential debates has been able to win the election.
War on Iraq, War on Health Care
While Kerry's strategists have switched their plan from lowballing expectations to predicting victory, Bush continued pressing hard against Kerry's Senate record, that of a confirmed liberal, the president said. He added that the presidential debates have "showed differences between the senator and me on issues ranging from jobs to taxes to health care to the War on Terror."
Bush said he expected the importance of health care to play a large role in the debate, but both sides have not rejected the notion that the domestic policy debate could turn to homeland security and the War on Terror. Both campaigns argue that they are domestic issues insomuch as they affect the military budget and federal financing issues.
To that end, Bush landed a few blows on Tuesday, asking how Kerry could be strong on defense when he even voted against supporting the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
"He now says he wants a 'global test' before taking action to defend American security. Think about that: a global test. The problem is he can never pass his own test," Bush said in Colorado. "If driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait with the support of the international community does not meet his test, nothing will, and that's dangerous."
Bush added that he can fix the health care system and help reduce the federal deficit in the process. Bush stressed the need for more community health centers in poor neighborhoods and promoted newly enacted legislation to revamp Medicare as a boon to senior citizens.
Bush said Kerry's proposed changes would put millions of people looking for health care into "a government program" and that he could not pay for it without raising taxes on middle America.
"With a straight face he tried to tell Americans that ... the government has nothing to do with it," Bush said.
The Kerry campaign, however, retorted that the senator's proposal to raise taxes on Americans earning more than $200,000 a year will help pay for the health care crisis that the Bush administration has created.
"Over the past four years, we've seen health care in this country deteriorate into a crisis, costs have hit record levels, millions of people have lost their coverage and John Kerry has a plan to deal with those issues," said campaign spokesman Phil Singer.
While Kerry stayed out of sight, running mate John Edwards also went to Colorado where he called Bush "out of touch."
"And the problem is — if you don't see a problem you can't fix it, he can't fix what's happening in Iraq, health care, economy because he doesn't see it," he said.
Right Way or Wrong Way?
On Tuesday, FOX News political analyst Dick Morris (search) said Kerry made a "fundamental error" in challenging Bush on the War on Terror since that issue is Bush's strong suit.
In addition, Morris emphasized, "The important thing is, which Bush shows up tomorrow?" Morris said there are two debate faces to the president — the smirking Bush of the first debate whose facial expressions almost said, "what am I doing here?" and the more focused Bush of the second debate.
On Monday, Kerry lashed out at a president who has taken to calling the Democrat a tax-and-spend liberal with a 20-year Senate record of voting in favor of tax increases.
The record price of oil "means a lot more profit for this president's friends in the oil industry. But for most middle-class Americans, the Bush tax increase is a tax increase that they can't afford," Kerry said in New Mexico.
He also said Bush only cares about the well-connected, a theme he is expected to emphasize during the debate.
"In the past four years, in nearly every decision that he's made, President George W. Bush has chosen the powerful and the well-connected over middle-class Americans," Kerry said.
"The only people George Bush's policies are working for are the people that he's chosen to help. They're working for drug companies. They're working for HMOs. And they're certainly working for the big oil companies. The results are clear: 1.6 million private sector jobs have been lost. The cost of health care is up 64 percent."
Both campaigns announced new television ads to be released Wednesday. An independent group, called Operation Truth, is also releasing an ad that shows an injured veteran from the war in Iraq saying the war there was based on bad information that has left him not only speechless, but without his right arm.
FOX News' Carl Cameron and The Associated Press contributed to this report.