With about three weeks to go until the U.S. presidential election, the two major party candidates are on the attack. The tone is becoming more acrimonious with each passing day.

New polls show a virtual tie in the race for the White House, and neither side is taking anything for granted.

President Bush is delivering a new speech on the campaign trail - one that focuses on attacking John Kerry.

Mr. Bush is rallying his Republican Party faithful and trying to lure other voters by portraying his Democratic opponent as a liberal who wants to raise taxes and is not strong enough to lead the war on terrorism. At a campaign rally in New Mexico, he seized on comments made by Senator Kerry in an interview with the New York Times Magazine about the terrorist threat.

"Senator Kerry talked of reducing terrorism to - quote - 'nuisance' - end quote - and compared it to prostitution and illegal gambling," he said. "See, I couldn't disagree more. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorists, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world."

In that interview, John Kerry talked about the need to take on the terrorists, militarily and diplomatically. But in the portion of the article cited by the president, he said that as a former prosecutor he believes America can control terrorism, much as it has organized crime, and reduce it to the level of a nuisance.

The Kerry campaign said those comments were taken out of context by the president in an effort to convince voters that his Democratic Party opponent underestimates the terrorist threat.

Mr. Kerry did not refer to the matter during his only campaign appearance Monday - a rally in New Mexico. Instead his focus was on the rising cost of oil. He said the Bush administration's energy policy is helping the energy industry and American consumers are paying the price.

"Higher gas prices have cost the American consumer $34 billion since George Bush took office," he said. "Guess who is profiting from all this? That's right - the people who wrote the Bush energy plan in the first place, the big oil companies."

The Kerry speech provided a bit of a preview of campaign events to come. On Wednesday, the two major party candidates for president will meet for their third and final debate - a session in Arizona that will concentrate on domestic issues such as gas prices, taxes, education and health care.