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Bush, Kerry Prepare for Third Debate - 2004-10-13


President Bush and Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry are in the southwest state of Arizona where they will face off in their third and last debate. This debate will focus on U.S. domestic issues.

This forum offers both candidates the chance to get away from the war in Iraq, which dominated the two previous debates, and spend more time discussing the U.S. economy and social issues.

President Bush is expected to repeat his call to make record tax cuts permanent and will likely highlight plans to privatize parts of Social Security by allowing younger workers to invest some of their federal retirement savings in the stock market.

On education, the president says his so-called "No Child Left Behind" reforms are making teachers more accountable to parents through more regular testing in math and reading to overcome what Mr. Bush calls the soft bigotry of low expectations.

If elected to a second term, the Republican candidate says he will make fundamental changes to many government programs that he says are out of date, including health care, tax codes, and worker training.

President Bush will also likely focus on more conservative social issues, including his opposition to abortion and his call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Senator Kerry is expected to challenge the president on the economy by reminding voters of record job losses during the Bush administration. He wants to roll back some of the president's tax cuts on Americans making more than $200,000 a year.

Senator Kerry says he would use that money to extend health care coverage to 95 percent of Americans, including virtually all children. The Democratic candidate says his plan would provide coverage for the estimated 26 million Americans who have no health insurance.

Senator Kerry is expected to attack the president's education reforms by saying they are under-funded. As a Catholic, he says he opposes abortion, but will not act to restrict a woman's right to choose. The Democrat says he also opposes gay marriage, but believes it is an issue for states to decide, not something to be settled by a constitutional amendment.

Beyond the issues, both men will be looking to attract swing voters with personality and perhaps a bit of humor. They will be taking questions at Arizona State University from CBS television correspondent Bob Schieffer.

Public opinion polls show President Bush and Senator Kerry in a statistical dead-heat with just 20 days to go before Election Day.

The latest USA Today/CNN Gallup poll shows Senator Kerry with a double-digit lead in who voters prefer to handle the environment, health care, and the federal deficit. He has a smaller advantage on Social Security, education, and the economy.

President Bush has a 17-point lead when it comes to fighting terrorism and a slimmer advantage on the war in Iraq and taxes.

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