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Kerry Speaks on National Security, Bush Highlights Economic Themes

Both men started the day in the northern state of Wisconsin, where public opinion polls show a tight race with just one week to go before the election.

Democratic Party presidential hopeful John Kerry blasted President Bush's handling of the war on terrorism Tuesday, while Mr. Bush, the Republican Party candidate, defended his record on domestic issues.

Reports surfaced Tuesday that the Bush administration plans to request an additional $70 billion from Congress for U.S. commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Kerry was quick to pounce on the news, accusing Mr. Bush of gross mismanagement and costly blunders in the war in Iraq.

"He [President Bush] failed to secure Iraq and to keep it from becoming what it is today: a haven for terrorists," he said. "And now we have learned that the president wants an additional 70-billion dollars of your money early next year for Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. President, what else are you being silent about? What else are you keeping from the American people? How much more will the American people have to pay?"

Mr. Kerry spoke at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. Wisconsin has only 10 of the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win the election November second. But it is one of about a dozen so-called "battleground states" where the race is close, and where the overall outcome of the election will be decided.

The Massachusetts senator also questioned Mr. Bush's priorities, accusing him of short-changing national security while preserving tax cuts for wealthy citizens.

"Even as he told us that we cannot afford more port security, more baggage security [airport screening], more border patrol agents, more firefighters, more cops [police officers], George Bush tells America that we can afford every single dime of the $89 billion in tax cuts that he gave to folks making more than $1.2 million each. That is wrong, and we are going to change it," said Mr. Kerry.

From Wisconsin, the senator traveled west for a campaign rally in Nevada.

Elsewhere in Wisconsin (Onalaska), President Bush defended U.S. actions in Iraq, where national elections are scheduled for next year, and in Afghanistan, where elections were recently held.

"It was not all that long ago that young girls [in Afghanistan] lived under the reign of the Taliban, a brutal, barbaric people. Because we believe in freedom, Afghanistan's people went by the millions to the polls to vote for president. The first voter was a nineteen-year-old woman," he said.

But Mr. Bush reserved most of his speech for domestic themes, particularly economic issues. Wisconsin is one of many states that has lost large numbers of manufacturing jobs in recent years, and where polls show concerns among the electorate about America's economic future.

The president repeated his recipe for prosperity: keeping tax burdens low so that private enterprise can flourish.

"I understand the engine of growth for this economy is found with the entrepreneurs and the workers of America," said Mr. Bush. "And that is why we passed the largest tax relief [tax cuts] in a generation. The economic stimulus plan we passed is working. The national unemployment is down to five-point-four percent. That is lower than the average rate of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s."

Mr. Bush, who made another campaign stop in Wisconsin before traveling to neighboring Iowa, accused Senator Kerry of making campaign promises totaling trillions of dollars that cannot be paid for without broad tax increases. Mr. Kerry has insisted he only plans to raise federal taxes on the wealthiest Americans.