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US Presidential Nominees Head to Miami for Debate - 2004-09-29


The focus of the U.S. presidential campaign is moving to Miami, Florida, the site of the first debate between President Bush and his Democratic opponent John Kerry. Mr. Bush was the first to arrive in this crucial electoral state.

The Bush campaign canceled plans for an arrival rally in Florida. Instead, the president went to an orange grove on his way to Miami to survey the latest storm damage.

He stopped in the central part of the state, visiting a farm devastated by three of the four hurricanes to hit Florida in recent weeks. The visit gave him a chance to reach out to those most affected, and to stress efforts to provide federal help.

"I've asked Congress to provide $12.2 billion to respond to hurricanes Charlie, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne," said Mr. Bush.

Senator Kerry is expected to tour the state following the debate. Polls show President Bush with a six to eight point lead going into the event. In an interview broadcast Wednesday on ABC's Good Morning America program, Mr. Kerry acknowledged the Bush campaign's all-out effort to portray him as inconsistent has had an impact.

"See, what the Republicans do, and they love to and they are very good at it and they have spent millions of dollars doing it is find a little sentence here and find a little sentence there and take it out of context," said Mr. Kerry. "That is why I look forward to this debate because it is an opportunity to be able to really let the American people know the truth and know where you stand."

The Massachusetts senator said the one who has been going back and forth on the issues is President Bush, who he claimed has changed his rationale for war with Iraq time and time again.

Their differences on Iraq and the best way to conduct the war on terrorism are expected to dominate Thursday's debate. The session, which will deal only with foreign policy matters, will be held at the University of Miami.