The rivals for the White House were campaigning non-stop Friday — President Bush taking a whirlwind tour through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida while Sen. John Kerry stumped in Wisconsin and Nevada.
Bush continued to hammer away at his Democratic challenger on the War on Terror and health care in Pennsylvania Friday morning. Kerry was in Milwaukee, courting the women's vote, and then was heading to Nevada where the race is even. Women voters have historically favored Democrats, but polls show women now are about evenly divided.
With 11 days remaining until Americans head to the polls, both candidates are concentrating on the small pool of swing states — any of which could be the deciding factor on Nov. 2.
Click here for more on the candidates' race for the battleground states.
Nationwide polls continue to show a close contest. A new Associated Press poll gives Kerry a 3-percent lead, but that’s within the margin of error. Most other polls out this week — including one by FOX News/Opinion Dynamics showed Bush slightly out front.
Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers noted that although Bush has a seven-point lead advantage over Kerry when it comes to who Americans think can keep them safer, the AP poll showed that lead dropped from a 23-point gap in March.
"I think what the Kerry camp is going to keep doing is hammering Bush on Iraq, and talking to the American people about how George Bush isn't the person who can keep America safer and John Kerry is that person," Powers told FOX News on Friday.
Click here for Friday's edition of FOXNews.com's daily campaign digest, Trail Tales.
But Republican strategist Ed Rogers said Bush seems to be more on message lately than Kerry, and in such a close race every minute and every speech counts.
"This is going to be a close race — we've got a lot of people committed on one side or the other … but I do think that over the last couple of weeks, Kerry has had some self-inflicted wounds, I think his message has been less focused now we're in an environment where days matter," Rogers said. "Having a consistent message is what's going to carry the day … I think generally speaking, Bush probably has an advantage right now going into the last couple of days."
Bush Continues Focus on War on Terror, Health Care
At a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Friday morning — his 41st visit to the state since he's been president — Bush immediately said in order to win the War on Terror, Americans need to re-elect him to the White House.
"Americans will go to the polls in a time of war and ongoing threat to our country," Bush said, adding that enemies are "determined to attack us again."
"The outcome of this election will set the direction in the War on Terror, and in this war there's no place for confusion and no substitute for victory," he added. "The most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people — if America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch."
"All progress on every other issue depends on the safety of our citizens," Bush told supporters in a sports arena in Wilkes-Barre.
Part of Bush’s day Friday concentrated on medical liability, a topic the Republican incumbent is raising more and more since Kerry’s running mate — Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina — made his fortune as a trial lawyer in liability cases.
The president gave a new stump speech Friday. It mentioned voters facing choices in several areas, including security, family budget, quality of life such as health care and education, Social Security and family values. He launched a sharp new criticism of Kerry's positions on national security and domestic concerns, including taxes and Social Security.
The Bush campaign released an ad Friday renewing its criticism that Kerry is weak on national security, a key theme of the re-election effort. The spot shows wolves prowling in a dense forest as a narrator says, "Weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm."
The Kerry campaign was quick to respond to the ad.
"They have stooped so low now that they are using a pack of wolves running around a forest trying to scare you. This president is trying to scare America ... in a despicable and contemptible way," Democratic vice presidential nominee Edwards said in Boynton Beach, Fla.
The Democrats had their own new animal ad, portraying the Republican side as an ostrich with its head in the sand, the Democratic side as an eagle.
On the issue of lawsuits against doctors, the president said Kerry has voted 10 times in his Senate career against reforms in the area of medical liability.
"The effects of the litigation culture are real in Pennsylvania ... medical malpractice premiums are soaring," Bush said Thursday.
The Bush campaign says limiting medical malpractice awards could save $60 billion to $108 billion annually in health care costs. The Kerry campaign rejects Bush's numbers and favors limits on medical malpractice premium increases, sanctions for frivolous lawsuits, and nonbinding mediation in all states.
Kerry says more than half the states already cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
Kerry Courting Women
The Bay State senator on Friday talked about economic and other issues facing women, particularly middle-class women, and echoed his usual message of the country needing a "fresh start" to build a broader coalition in Iraq and to "hunt down, capture and kill the terrorists wherever they are."
"But a president has to be able to do more than one thing at a time," Kerry said. "And today, I want to talk about one of the greatest challenges facing the American middle class and those struggling to join it: In today's economy, too many hard-working women are falling further and further behind."
After being introduced by Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg (search), who has been active in pushing for reform in New York City schools, the Democratic presidential candidate said women today are more worried than ever about gas prices, the skyrocketing cost of health care, sinking wages and high taxes.
"And no matter how hard they work — at their jobs and at home — no one in the White House understands the challenges they face," Kerry said. "No matter how tough it gets, no one in the White House seems to be listening.
"The women I meet — they don't expect the government to do their jobs for them. But they do want leaders who are on their side as they try to do their jobs," he added. "I will fight every day so that women ... can once again start saying yes — yes to themselves, yes to their children and yes to their hopes for a better future."
On Thursday, Kerry accused Bush of slowing scientific advancement after earning a special endorsement from the widow of actor Christopher Reeve (search).
"The American people deserve a president who understands that when America invests in science and technology, we can build a stronger economy and create jobs for the 21st century," Kerry said during a campaign rally in Minnesota, where polls show a near dead heat. "But George Bush has literally ... turned his back on the spirit of exploration and discovery."
Reeve's widow, Dana, said her family has been grieving privately since her husband died Oct. 10. "My inclination would be to remain private for a good long while," she said. "But I came here today in support of John Kerry because this is so important. This is what Chris wanted."
Reeve had lived as a paraplegic since a riding accident in 1995. He had become an advocate for medical research and believed studying embryonic stem cells might unlock lifesaving cures and treatments, Dana Reeve said.
FOX News' Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.