Kerry again challenges Bush to debate

/ Source: The Associated Press

John Kerry’s presidential campaign on Thursday again challenged President Bush to one-on-one debates, saying the fiercely negative tone of the White House race has clouded the issues.

In a letter Thursday to Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot, Kerry campaign chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen said holding debates now would allow voters “the honest dialogue they deserve.”

The Bush-Cheney campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment. But Racicot, in a taped appearance with Shaheen on CNN’s “Inside Politics” airing Thursday, responded to the debate request, “What I would suggest to you is that Senator Kerry ought to debate himself and come to a resolute conclusion about so many different issues before he challenges anyone else.”

Six battleground states
Kerry’s campaign is pinpointing six battleground states to debate issues where it says the Bush administration has been unsuccessful: homeland security and veterans in Pennsylvania, education in Arizona, the environment in Washington state, jobs and the economy in Ohio, health care in Missouri, and equal opportunity in Florida.

Kerry challenged Bush to monthly debates in mid-March, saying then that “America shouldn’t have to put up with eight months of sniping.”

Since Kerry emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee, both candidates have criticized each other, at times sharply, on everything from national security to taxes. Kerry’s first negative television ad, released Thursday, claims Bush’s economic policies have shipped U.S. jobs overseas.

Regardless of whether the candidates agree to meet early in the race, a series of presidential debates is still scheduled for the fall, with an independent commission controlling the schedule.