LITITZ, Pa. — President Bush summoned support from Democrats whose “dreams and goals are not found in the far left wing” of their own party on Wednesday in a late-campaign appeal for crossover votes. Sen. John Kerry said that when it comes to Iraq, the man in the White House “doesn’t get it, and he can’t fix it.”
Bush has made a habit of “dodging and bobbing and weaving” when it comes to tons of missing explosives outside Baghdad, added the four-term Massachusetts senator, and Vice President Dick Cheney “is becoming the Chief Minister of Disinformation.”
The president accused his rival of “wild charges” unbecoming a man with ambitions for the Oval Office.
Six days before the election, the president and his Democratic challenger appeared before large late-October crowds as their aides and outside groups made strategic adjustments for the campaign’s endgame.
Bush’s high command put extra money into television commercials in Portland, Maine — a bid to claim victory in next-door New Hampshire, where recent polls show Kerry the narrow leader. The challenger as well as groups supporting him stepped up efforts in Hawaii, customarily a safe Democratic state, but too close for Kerry’s comfort in recent surveys.
AP-Ipsos poll: 11 percent voters done
With polls reporting a high level of interest in the race for the White House, an Associated Press-Ipsos survey showed 11 percent of voters had already marked ballots in 32 states that permit early voting, and another 11 percent said they intended to do so.
Video: Kerry in 'Bush country' “Lots of folks have made up their minds, and they figure that if they send in their ballots, the campaigns will stop pestering them,” said Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger in Washington.
Yet there were problems as millions tried to beat the Election Day rush, and thousands of lawyers were primed to catch them. Officials in Florida’s Broward County said up to 58,000 absentee ballots may not have reached voters who requested them more than two weeks ago.
In Ohio, a federal judge halted hearings on Republican challenges of thousands of voter registrations, many of them from the Democrat-heavy county that includes Cleveland.
The presidential race aside, 34 Senate races and 435 House contests dot the ballot on Nov. 2, and candidates and parties alike strained for a late advantage. Republicans, heavily favored to retain their majority in the House, sought late upsets in races for Democratic seats in Missouri and California. But GOP officials also said Illinois Rep. Phil Crane was in a difficult struggle to win an 18th term.
'Horse race in horse country'
GOP strategists also fretted over Sen. Jim Bunning’s recent dive in the polls in Kentucky and minority Democrats rooted for an upset. “We have a horse race in horse country,” crowed Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, head of the party’s senatorial campaign committee.
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Bush devoted about a quarter of his stump speech to an appeal to Democrats. He invoked the names of Democrats Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy by way of accusing Kerry of “taking a narrow, defensive view of the war on terror,” then summoned memories of Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey to accuse his rival of shortchanging public education. Bill Clinton, he added, signed legislation that Kerry opposed to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
Bush also mentioned the “moral clarity” of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat who supported legislation to ban so-called partial birth abortions — a bill Kerry has consistently opposed.
“Many Democrats look at my opponent and see an attitude that is much more extreme,” added the president. “If you’re a Democrat, and your dreams and goals are not found in the far left wing of the Democrat party. I’d be honored to have your vote.”
A whiff of Camelot
Not if Kerry could help it — and Bush’s appeal was too much for Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. “All of us who revere the strength and resolve of President Kennedy will be supporting John Kerry on Election Day,” the daughter of the assassinated president said in a statement.
For the third consecutive day, Kerry assailed Bush over the disappearance of nearly 400 tons of explosives in Iraq.
“The missing explosives could very likely be in the hands of terrorists and insurgents, who are actually attacking our forces now 80 times a day on average,” Kerry said at a rally in Sioux City. “But now today we’ve learned even more. What we’re seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving in their usual efforts to avoid responsibility, just as they’ve done every step of the way in our involvement in Iraq.”
Aboard the Kerry campaign plane on Wednesday, adviser Mike McCurry said, “From some of the Pentagon reporting today, there is a window that’s available there where either just prior to or just after the invasion, there could have been an opportunity for either Saddam to move the weapons or for something happening after that facility had been abandoned.” He said it was up to the administration to answer what had happened, “but they don’t have an answer.”
Kerry also appealed to middle-class voters in the election homestretch Wednesday, saying Bush had sold them out to help the wealthy and now wanted “four more years so that he can keep up the bad work.”
Bush's kinder, gentler endgame
Bush, meanwhile, put together a campaign endgame that included persistent appeals for Democratic votes and a rarely used weapon in this bruising campaign — a positive commercial.
After ripping Kerry for weeks as an equivocator, Bush planned to close the contest with a 60-second commercial meant to show him as steady, trustworthy and compassionate in dangerous times.
The ad shows an emotional president telling the Republican National Convention about meeting the children and parents of slain U.S. soldiers, as well as wounded servicemen and women.
“These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget,” Bush says. “I’ve learned firsthand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right.” The commercial will be seen by a limited audience, given that it will run only on a couple national cable news networks.
Minstrels in the arsenal
Rockers Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi were rejoining the Kerry campaign, minstrels in his fast-moving gallery. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was bringing his star power — and moderate GOP reputation — to Bush’s side later in the week.
The president turned to the iconoclastic Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia to accompany him Wednesday to Pennsylvania and Ohio events, in keeping with his late-breaking appeals to Democrats who aren’t sold on their own party’s nominee.
Video: New Bush ad Bush, in Pennsylvania, said, “I want to remind the American people that if Senator Kerry had his way ... Saddam Hussein would still be in power, he would control all those weapons and explosives” and could have shared them with America’s terrorist enemies.
“For a political candidate to jump to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief,” Bush said.
Kerry was focusing on economic troubles in the Sioux City speech Wednesday before stumping in Minnesota and back in Iowa, at a Cedar Rapids event. Aides saw that speech and one to be delivered on Friday that will blend his campaign’s economic and foreign policy proposals as his “closing arguments” for change. The speeches were added to his schedule after aides had said earlier that a speech Tuesday on homeland security was to be his last of the campaign.
Still, neither campaign was going upbeat, nor were their supporters.
Hard-hitting leaflets lined mailboxes in a dozen or so hotly contested states. A glossy mailing by the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee showed burning roadside wreckage in Iraq, with U.S. soldiers looking on, and the headline “Wrong Choices ... Less Secure.”
A Republican National Committee mailing showed pictures of Jane Fonda and Michael Moore, two anti-war liberals supporting Kerry, and the headline, “John Kerry’s heart and soul of America?”
Video: New Kerry ad Kerry’s latest ad accuses the Bush administration of failing to secure the explosives that disappeared from a military installation south of Baghdad around the time U.S. forces were toppling Saddam Hussein’s government.
New state polls suggested the race was deadlocked in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the three most important battlegrounds in the race for 270 Electoral College votes.
With the possibility of another inconclusive election night looming, lawyers were already deep in courtroom entanglements in a variety of states over problems either anticipated or already experienced in states with heavy early voting.
In one example, a federal judge in Miami ruled against Democrats in saying Florida election officials will not be required to process incomplete voter registration forms.
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