Published October 24, 2004
The latest presidential campaign ads could easily be titled "When Candidates Attack."
A new TV ad released by President Bush's (search) campaign features a pack of prowling wolves, and suggests a John Kerry (search)-led America would be vulnerable to terrorism because "weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm."
An ad by the Democratic National Committee counters with humor, by showing an eagle spreading its wings while an ostrich stands with its head buried in sand. The announcer says: "The eagle soars high above the earth. The ostrich buries its head in the sand. The eagle can see everything for miles around. The ostrich? Can't see at all. ... Given the choice, in these challenging times, shouldn't we be the eagle again?"
The Massachusetts senator responded to Bush's ad on the campaign trail Saturday, accusing him of engaging in scare tactics.
"Vote your hopes, not the fears that George Bush wants you to feel," Kerry said at a rally in Pueblo, Colo. "Vote your hopes for our nation. Vote the possibilities of our country."
When asked if he really believed the nation would be more susceptible to attacks under a Kerry administration, Bush told FOX News that the senator's viewpoint on Iraq and world relations were "dangerous because [they're] very limited in nature.
"I think all that adds up to, in my judgment, is a strategy that would not enable us to win. He said he wanted to reduce terrorism to a nuisance. To me, that is not the right strategy in the world in which we live. The strategy to defeat these terrorists, in the short term by bringing them to justice using all the assets at our disposal. In the long term, by encouraging free societies to emerge," Bush told FOX's Sean Hannity on Saturday.
Kerry, during the debates and on the campaign stump, has also vowed to fight the terrorists and to hunt them down where they hide. But Kerry has said Bush made the wrong move by waging war against Iraq when the situation in Afghanistan remained dangerous and Usama bin Laden (search) remained a free man.
Bush reflected back on Afghanistan in his interview with Hannity, and said the country's recent elections should be a cause for hope. "I'd ask you to go back and think about what public opinion was like as to whether or not — several years ago as to whether or not democracy would ever emerge in Afghanistan ... a society has gone from darkness to light because freedom is on the march."
Watch Hannity's interview with Bush on the FOX News Channel on Monday at 9 p.m. ET.
Ten Days to Go
Kerry sought to undercut Bush on national security Saturday by charging that he was trying to scare voters with talk of terrorism. Bush portrayed his opponent as indecisive and suffering from "election amnesia" with conflicting stands on Iraq.
Racing toward a finish line 10 days away in an election too close to call, Bush hopscotched by Marine helicopter to rallies in Republican-friendly areas of Florida, the state that put him in the White House four years ago. His chopper landings on baseball fields, before thousands of cheering supporters, underscored Bush's ability to use the powers of the presidency for his campaign.
Iraq and the war on terrorism dominated the campaign debate, reflecting voters' anxieties as the election nears. For hundreds of thousands of voters, however, the time of decision is over already. Thirty-two states allow for some form of early voting, either in person or by absentee ballot, and many voters are taking advantage of the opportunity.
Bush mocked Kerry for criticizing him on Iraq, saying Kerry now calls it the "wrong war" after voting to authorize force and calling it the right decision when U.S. troops invaded.
"Sen. Kerry seems to have forgotten all that as his position has evolved during the course of the campaign," Bush said. "You might call it election amnesia."
Kerry opened the day in Pueblo, Colo., asking voters to choose what he described as his optimistic outlook. "Vote your hopes, not the fears that George Bush wants you to feel," Kerry said. "Vote your hopes for our nation. Vote the possibilities of our country."
Kerry's southwestern swing briefly touched Bush's adopted home state of Texas, but only as an airport landing before a rally in Las Cruces, N.M.
"This president keeps going around the country trying to scare people," Kerry said. "The only thing he wants to talk about is terror, the war on terror, national security. If that's the debate we want to have, I'm prepared to have that debate because I can wage a better war on terror than George Bush has."
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry "has run a relentlessly negative and pessimistic campaign. He has no positive agenda for the future of our country."
Kerry spokesman Phil Singer returned Bush's criticism of the senator. "As much as we'd all like to forget the last four years of George Bush's failed policies and wrong choices, voters aren't going to have amnesia when it comes time to vote on Election Day," Singer said.
A majority of likely voters approve of Bush's handling of the war on terror and foreign policy. They are evenly split on who would do the best job in Iraq.
Kerry criticized Bush for not chasing down Usama bin Laden but stopped short of asserting, as he had a day before, that he would have captured or killed the reputed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Bush said the choice voters face "could not be clearer. You cannot lead our nation to the decisive victory on which the security of every American family depends if you do not see the true dangers of the post-Sept. 11 world."
In terms of the horse race between Bush and Kerry, they are close. National polls show Bush and Kerry even, or Bush slightly ahead.
Four years ago, Bush won Florida by 537 votes. On Saturday he tried to energize Republicans in counties he carried in 2000, stopping in Fort Myers and Lakeland, on the west side of the state, at Melbourne on the east coast, and finally in Jacksonville, situated in the heavily Republican northeast.
Amid worries of a close election left undecided on Nov. 2, as happened four years ago, courts already are grappling with the counting of provisional ballots — the ballots that are supposed to be a backup for eligible voters whose names are missing when they show up at the polls. For the first time, provisional balloting is required in all states this year.
A federal appeals court is expected to rule within days on counting provisional ballots, and the next step would be the Supreme Court, which settled the last presidential election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.