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Bush, Kerry Both Claim Victory After Debate - 2004-10-01


President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry are back on the campaign trail, following Thursday's debate.

Opening a rally in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, President Bush set aside his standard campaign speech for some post-debate analysis. Mr. Bush continued to attack his opponent as a so-called "flip-flopper," telling Republican supporters that Senator Kerry keeps changing his mind.

"Last night, Senator Kerry only continued his pattern of confusing contradictions," he said. "After voting for the war, after saying my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, he now says it was all a mistake. But asked the logical question, 'Does that mean our troops are dying for a mistake?' He said 'No.' You can't have it both ways. You can't say it's a mistake and not a mistake."

Campaigning at a university in the state of Florida, Senator Kerry told Democratic supporters that President Bush rushed to war in Iraq, without a broad enough coalition to share the costs.

"This president pushed the folks away from us at the U.N. They actually offered to help," he said. "He didn't want to do that. He didn't even want to allow people to share in the reconstruction, because he wanted to save it for Halliburton and the rest of his buddies. I have a plan. And I will hold a summit. And I will personally attend it, lead it. We will go to the region. We will do everything necessary to pull countries to the table to share in what the world has a stake in."

President Bush mocks the senator's plan for a summit to broaden the coalition in Iraq, saying it is far short of what's needed to win the fight. "The cornerstone of Senator Kerry's plan for Iraq is that he would convene a summit," he said. "I've been to a lot of summits. I've never seen a meeting that would depose a tyrant or bring a terrorist to justice."

Senator Kerry says he will lead a smarter, more effective fight against terrorism and criticized President Bush for questioning how the nation will pay for higher homeland security costs.

"He says, 'Well, I don't know how you are going to pay for all that. You're going to have a tax gap.' My friends, this is the president who created a tax gap by providing a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans instead of investing in homeland security in the United States," he said.

During the debate, Senator Kerry said pre-emptive war must be done in a way that passes what he called "the global test" where the president can prove to the world that it was done for legitimate reasons.

President Bush says that means giving countries like France a veto over using U.S. troops to defend America. "Senator Kerry last night said that America has to pass some sort of global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves," he said. "He wants our national security decisions subject to the approval of a foreign government. Listen, I will continue to work with our allies and the international community, but I will never submit America's national security to an international test."

Mr. Bush says the president's job is not to take an international public opinion poll, but to defend America.

As for American public opinion polls, going into the debate, most showed President Bush leading Senator Kerry, with just over a month to go before Election Day. It is too soon to say whether the debate has shifted those numbers, but both candidates are claiming victory in their first face-to-face contest.