President Bush says he supports legal action to ban campaign advertising by unregulated political groups. Democratic challenger John Kerry says groups attacking his war record are illegally coordinating their efforts with the Bush campaign.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the Bush-Cheney campaign will file suit, asking the Federal Election Commission to outlaw so-called 527 groups, which raise funds and run political ads outside the political parties.
President Bush telephoned Arizona Senator John McCain Thursday to say he would join him in legislative action against the groups, if court challenges fail.
Senator McCain, a Republican who has campaigned for the president's re-election, says he wants the 527 groups properly regulated, not outlawed.
Republican officials say the Kerry campaign has illegally coordinated millions of dollars worth of anti-Bush ads with tax-exempt groups on the Democratic side. Democrats make similar accusations against the Republicans.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe says the solution is not banning the groups, but having the president join John Kerry in denouncing misleading ads.
"They know as well as we do, we are not going to be able to stop these 527 ads," he said. "But what I ask the president to do is come out and condemn them when these ads are filled with lies and misperceptions, and he has refused to do it. When there was an ad out that John Kerry didn't like, he immediately came out and said, 'Take that ad down.' I would expect that same kind of leadership out of George Bush."
Senator McCain has also called on President Bush to specifically condemn ads attacking the war record of fellow-Vietnam-veteran John Kerry.
Bush campaign officials say the president has already condemned all advertising by all of the 527 groups, including the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
A new poll by the Los Angeles Times newspaper shows those ads may be having an impact on the race. Nearly half of those polled say they have seen the swift boat ads. The share of voters who say they lack confidence in Mr. Kerry grew from 39 percent to 43 percent.
President Bush campaigned in the important swing state of New Mexico Thursday, a state he lost four years ago by less than 400 votes.
Mr. Bush did not directly address the issue of negative political ads during a campaign speech Thursday, but repeated his own attack against what he calls Senator Kerry's flip-flopping on Iraq, after initially voting to approve the use of force, then declaring himself an anti-war candidate during the Democratic primaries.
"After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, my opponent now agrees with me that even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons we all thought were there, knowing everything we know now, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein," said President Bush. "I want to thank the senator for clearing that up. There is still a little over 60 days for him to change his mind again."
Senator Kerry told voters in Minnesota that the nation needs a conversation on the issues, not what he calls the president's campaign of smear and fear.