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Bush campaign goes after Kerry

McCain predicts 'nastiest campaign we've ever seen'

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Stay with CNN-USA throughout the evening for updates on John Kerry's Southern campaign swing -- he has spent Monday in Florida -- and President Bush's fund-raising efforts in Texas.
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• Tuesday, March 9: Primaries in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas

• Sunday, March 14: Nevada county caucuses

• Tuesday, March 16: Illinois primary

• Saturday, March 20: Wyoming and Alaska Democratic caucuses

When is your primary? For more key dates in the 2004 election season, see our special America Votes 2004 Election Calendar
• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
John F. Kerry
John McCain
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the first weekend since the presidential race was whittled down to a matchup between President Bush and presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, the Bush campaign took aim at Kerry, making clear its chief lines of attack.

Speaking on the Sunday talk shows, Bush supporters depicted the senator from Massachusetts as an extreme liberal who flip-flops on issues, is weak on security and would raise taxes if elected.

Kerry supporters painted Bush as stubbornly sticking to failed economic and foreign policies, failing to deliver on promises and -- citing his controversial new television ads as examples -- being "a divider and not a uniter."

The wrangling on all those fronts could last the next eight months.

"I think this is going to be probably the nastiest campaign we've ever seen from both sides because of the polarization that exists in politics today," Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said on ABC's "This Week."

The efforts against Kerry follow what Bush spokespeople call months of anti-Bush campaigning by the Democratic presidential hopefuls.

"We're just going to talk about his record," Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot said on "Fox News Sunday." "He's headed in the wrong direction. He has been for 19 years, and he would lead this country in the wrong direction."

Racicot said Kerry would raise taxes if elected and complained about several of Kerry's Senate votes.

He also said that though Kerry voted in 2002 to support military action as an option against Iraq, he voted against an $87 billion supplemental spending bill late last year.

Racicot said the bill "did everything from provide hazard pay for our troops in Iraq to body armor for our troops in Iraq. ... Now, that's the kind of record that the American people need to know about."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, said Kerry "seems to be in honest confusion about what his position is" on the war on terror.

Bush himself accused Kerry of waffling on such major issues in a speech to Republican governors in Washington last month. (Full story)

"The way we're going to deal with those attacks is by taking them head on," Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Kerry, said on "This Week."

"John Kerry has a 35-year consistent record of fighting for people. ... And we welcome the debate," Devine said.

Devine said Bush "ran saying that he was going to not return us to deficit spending. He has.

"He pledged not to stick his hand, the hand of government, into the Social Security trust. They have taken $150 billion out of it this year in order to pay for expenses. The president has changed his position on a broad range of issues."

Kerry's fellow senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, told CNN's "Late Edition" that Kerry voted in favor of the 2002 resolution on Iraq only after hearing "distortion" and "misrepresentation" from the administration about the threat from Saddam Hussein's regime.

If Kerry had been president, Kennedy said, "we never would have gone to war. We would have mobilized the international community. We would have isolated and contained Saddam Hussein."

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told CNN's "Inside Politics "that Kerry "would have been happy to vote for" the $87 billion in supplemental funding for Iraq "if, A, we could have paid for it, and, B, we had a responsible policy in Iraq."

On taxes, she said, "You hear the same old arguments from Republicans about what Democrats are going to do the fix the economy.

"And the fact is, every time this president has ... tried to fix the economy, he's got the same answer -- more and more tax cuts. Clearly it's not working."

Cutter referred to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department that showed 21,000 jobs were created last month -- nearly 200,000 short of the White House's monthly forecast.

"We need to get Americans working again. We're not going to do that with tax cuts for the wealthy. We need to invest in middle America," Cutter said.

Racicot said the growth is part of an upswing.

Kerry's supporters also sought to fend off complaints that his politics are far left of mainstream America.

Giuliani was among those issuing that charge Sunday, telling NBC that a vote for Kerry would be "a vote for the most liberal member of the United States Senate."

Ed Rendell, Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, reacted angrily to those accusations on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"How dare they say that John Kerry is liberal when they have run up the biggest deficit in the history of this country?" Rendell said.

"How dare they say things like that when John Kerry supported them on a number of different things and a lot of Democratic senators didn't. If I were John Kerry, my head would be spinning."

Both sides battled over the Bush campaign's first wave of television advertising, which includes images of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that some victims' family members have deemed offensive. (Full story)

Racicot defended the ads, saying Bush had the right to remind people of his leadership during that time. Devine said the ads were "just the latest example of the way this president has been a divider and not a uniter."

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