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Candidates Campaign, Prepare for Final Debate - 2004-10-12


President Bush and Senator John Kerry are in the western United States preparing for their third and final campaign debate. Republican and Democratic presidential nominees will face each other Wednesday in Arizona.

The focus of the last debate will be domestic policy.

President Bush says on matters from taxes to education, Senator Kerry is out of the political mainstream. He says that Mr. Kerry's comments at their past two debates demonstrated he is far too liberal to govern the United States.

"Much as he has tried to obscure it, on issue after issue, my opponent showed why he earned his ranking as the most liberal member of the United States Senate," said Mr. Bush.

At a rally in Colorado, Mr. Bush charged Senator Kerry will not provide the leadership necessary to win the war on terrorism. He also said a Kerry presidency will lead to higher taxes and hurt the economy.

"To pay for all the big spending programs he has outlined during his campaign, he is going to have to raise your taxes," added. Mr. Bush. "He can run, but he cannot hide."

Senator Kerry chose not to campaign on the eve of the debate in Arizona and spent the day in the nearby state of New Mexico preparing for his last pre-election encounter with the president. His top aides appeared confident, saying during a conference call with reporters that they expect a strong performance from the Democratic nominee.

Senior Kerry campaign advisor Joe Lockhart previewed the candidate's debate strategy.

"John Kerry will lay out his domestic agenda and hold the president accountable for the failures over the last four years on things like jobs, health care, energy independence, social security, the whole range," said Mr. Lockhart.

Despite the fact that the two major party candidates are virtually tied in pre-election public opinion polls, Mr. Lockhart said the Bush campaign is under more pressure going into the final debate.

"This is the most difficult setting, format and subject matter for him," added Mr. Lockhart. "So I think the stakes are high for both of us, but I think increasingly higher for the president."

Joe Lockhart noted that the president's approval ratings are better on the war on terrorism than on domestic matters, indicating an advantage in the third debate for Senator Kerry. Mr. Lockhard predicted there would be some discussion of combating terror in the domestic issues debate, but stressed it would only be in the context of steps being taken to protect Americans at home.