Published October 27, 2004
GREEN BAY, Wis. – John Kerry (search) accused President Bush (search) on Tuesday of trying to cover up bad decisions relating to the execution of the war in Iraq and alluded to the possibility that more bad news has yet to be uncovered.
"Mr. President, what else are you being silent about? What else are you keeping from the American people?" Kerry said during a speech in Green Bay, referring to the estimated 380 tons of highly explosive material that have gone missing from an arms depot in Iraq.
Although Kerry and the Democrats are blaming the Bush administration for losing the ammo, calling it "one of the great blunders" of the Iraq war, recent reports by NBC and further details given by the Pentagon and International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday suggest that the material may have been missing before the 101st Airborne Division rolled into the Al-Qaqaa facility as Saddam Hussein was being deposed in nearby Baghdad in April 2003.
Vice President Dick Cheney responded for Bush from Florida, saying, "It is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad."
While the president's bus caravan rolled along a road hugging the Mississippi River, Kerry said in eastern Wisconsin that Bush has misled voters about the justification and cost of war in Iraq, where more than 1,000 Americans have lost their lives.
Click here for Tuesday's edition of FOXNews.com's daily campaign digest, Trail Tales.
Kerry also vowed in his Green Bay speech that he wouldn't relent when it comes to pursuing the War on Terror (search).
"We will hunt down, capture, kill and destroy terrorists … I will never give any other nation or any other organization a veto over the security over the United States of America," the Democratic candidate said.
For his part, Bush said in Onalaska, Wis., Tuesday that Kerry can't lead a fight he doesn't believe in and can't get other countries — whose contributions he's discounted, Republicans charge — to help in a war he says is wrong.
Bush said Kerry had chosen a path of "weakness and inaction," putting himself "in opposition not just to me, but to the great tradition of the Democratic Party."
"The party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and John Kennedy is rightly remembered for confidence and resolve in times of war and in hours of crisis. Senator Kerry has turned his back on 'pay any price' and 'bear any burden,'" the president said.
The Republican also echoed a familiar campaign theme that his opponent would raise taxes in a way that would cripple small businesses "to pay for all the new spending he's proposed."
Campaigning in Wisconsin, like Bush, Kerry said Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan all nurtured security alliances while Bush "has failed in his fundamental obligation as commander in chief to make America as safe and secure as we should be."
Later, in Nevada, the Democrat appealed in both Spanish and English to undecided voters. "We're in a bigger mess by the day and the president can't see it or can't admit it, but either way, America is less safe," he said.
A Los Angeles Times poll showed the popular vote tied, 48-48, with Bush-weary voters open to change on Iraq and the economy but harboring doubts about Kerry's ability to lead the nation against terror.
New state surveys showed the race also knotted in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the three most important battlegrounds in the race for 270 Electoral College votes.
Behind the scenes, both campaigns tweaked their stump speeches, advertising strategies and get-out-the-vote drives.
Kerry told a crowd in Las Vegas that a woman had begged a staffer of his to get a message to him: "I've got your back."
"I need you all to have my back in the coming weeks," Kerry said. He closed his speech with the same theme: "We've got your back."
In a gesture of moderation aimed at the same voters, Bush told ABC-TV he supported civil unions for homosexual couples "if that's what a state chooses to do." The remark upset some conservatives who not only want to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, as does Bush, but also would bar state approval of gay civil unions.
Campaign pitches varied from deadly serious to almost silly. A radio ad reminded Wisconsin voters that Kerry got the name of their beloved Green Bay Packers' football stadium wrong. Kerry recruited rocker Bruce Springsteen to play at his rallies.
Bush was introduced at his first Wisconsin stop by one of the state's favorite sons, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, the former governor of the state, who predicted the Badger State would vote Republican.
With family budgets as his focus, the president showcased his tax cuts and called for them to be made permanent. He also said the economy's recovering, though it still hasn't produced as many jobs as have been lost since he took office. He said farm income is up and unemployment is down in the state.
"The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is down to 5 percent," Bush said. "We're headed in the right direction here in America."
The Fight for Wisconsin
Bush, who lost Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes by only 5,708 ballots in 2000, was looking to sway Democratic voters during a three-stop bus tour in the western part of the state. The Bush campaign is increasingly confident that Wisconsin is in its corner.
The president's second stop Tuesday was in Richland for a "focus on the economy" event. With the exception of LaCrosse County, Bush is sticking to areas that he won during the 2000 election.
Stop three was Cuba City, Wis., where the president was rallying the faithful for the re-election of Republican candidates in the "City of Presidents."
"This election comes down to five clear choices for your families, for America's families: your family's security, your family budget, your quality of life, your retirement, and the bedrock values that makes this a great country," Bush said during his 19th visit to Wisconsin. He was last there less than one week ago.
Bush's last stop was in Dubuque, Iowa, also to rally the party faithful. First lady Laura Bush was traveling with the president to all stops Tuesday.
Cheney teamed up Tuesday with former New York Mayor Ed Koch campaigning in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Koch, a Democrat and fervent supporter of the Bush administration in the war against terrorism, said the vice president is a man "I would give my life to" protect.
"You can depend on him. You can depend on George Bush," Koch told several hundred cheering Republicans at a rally in Palm Beach County.
Kerry was campaigning on the east side of Wisconsin, a state Al Gore barely won in 2000 and one that is now viewed as a toss-up.
He had another four-state day lined up, one taking him more than 3,000 miles from Green Bay to Las Vegas to Albuquerque, N.M., and then finally to Sioux City, Iowa.
The Massachusetts senator pressed his case that Bush bungled and misled on the Iraq war and national security crises in general.
"When the president is faced with the consequences of his own bad decisions, he doesn't confront them, he tries to hide them," Kerry said. "The truth is, President Bush isn't leveling with the American people about why we went to war, how the war is going or what he is doing to put Iraq on track."
And Kerry broadened the attack to declare, "Just as he has been warned about his mistakes in Iraq, George Bush has been warned time and time again about the vulnerability of our homeland security."
Kerry said he would spend an additional $60 billion over 10 years on homeland security, using the money to screen cargo for nuclear materials at ports and borders, add border patrol agents and more.
Bush and Kerry are competing head-on for a distinct set of battleground states — Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida among them — but other states are getting a second look, too, because of signs of fluidity.
Polls found a tightening race in Arkansas, which Bush won in 2000 and the Democrats had not seen as a serious prospect this time. New Hampshire, narrowly won by Bush in 2000, seemed to be moving Kerry's way in the final stretch.
In the waning days before Election Day, both candidates are bringing out the political heavyweights to help win over those voters still undecided about who they will cast their vote for.
Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Kerry in Boca Raton, Fla., Tuesday before a Jewish congregation and on Monday in Philadelphia while Al Gore stumped in Florida. Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was on the trail with Bush in Colorado, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may join Bush in Ohio next week for some campaigning as well.
And the big names keep rolling.
On Tuesday, actor Ashton Kutcher campaigned for Kerry in Minneapolis, Minn.
This election is "an opportunity to turn our chaos into compassion, it's an opportunity for change," said the star of "That '70s Show" and host of the MTV show "Punk'd," in which celebrities are the subjects of practical jokes.
"My dad always told me when opportunity knocks, don't just open the door, invite him in, offer him a beer and ask him how he's doing. I've done that with John Kerry and John Edwards and they're doing fine."
Kutcher was campaigning with Edwards this week.
"What do we all have in common? We're all beings of desire — we all want things ... financial security, we want health, we want to feel safe, we want happiness — we all want that," Kutcher added.
Kutcher was campaigning in Iowa with Edwards on Monday, and told voters that he and others who voted for Bush in 2000 "got punk'd."
"I voted for him because I thought he was like me. I thought he was a good old boy like me," Kutcher said, speaking before Edwards took the stage in Dubuque.
But Kutcher, 26, said Bush has proven him wrong. And he had a message for the president: "You're not going to fool me again."
On Tuesday, the Kerry-Edwards camp announced that rocker Bruce Springsteen will also hit the trail with the Democratic candidates at campaign rallies in Madison, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday. Springsteen also will join Kerry for an election eve rally in Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 1, when he's expected to perform one or two songs.
FOX News' Wendell Goler, Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.