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Kerry strikes back at Bush on ads

Campaign representatives take to the airwaves

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Stay with CNN-USA for our political team's updates and analysis on the battle of the campaign ads and other aspects of the race for the White House.
more videoVIDEO
CNN's John King on the new Bush-Cheney ads' attack on John Kerry.

CNN's Howard Kurtz looks at the latest political ads from President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

Bush adviser Mary Matalin talks with CNN's Soledad O'Brien about the long season ahead.

CNN's Bruce Morton on the 270 people invited to stay at the Bush White House.
Senate panel seeks prosecutor for memo scandal
Senate passes $2.36 trillion budget

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
John F. Kerry
George W. Bush
Political Advertising
America Votes 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the latest twist of the markedly combative race for the White House, Sen. John Kerry's campaign released an ad Friday accusing President Bush of "misleading America" about Kerry's record.

The 30-second message, a response to ads from the Bush campaign attacking the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, asks, "Doesn't America deserve more from its president than misleading, negative ads?"

One of Bush's two ads rolled out Thursday, called "100 Days," is his first TV commercial directly attacking Kerry.

It says Kerry plans to "raise taxes by at least $900 billion" and weaken the Patriot Act "used to arrest terrorists and protect America."

The ad also says Kerry "wanted to delay defending America until the United Nations approved." (Full story)

Kerry's ad responds, "Once again, George Bush is misleading America. John Kerry has never called for a $900 billion dollar tax increase. He wants to cut taxes for the middle class. Doesn't America deserve more from its president than misleading negative ads? John Kerry will crack down on the export of American jobs, get health care costs under control, and cut the deficit."

It ends with the tag-line, "John Kerry -- a new direction for America."

The Bush campaign's second ad released Thursday contained a clear reference to Kerry, the text saying, "We can go forward with confidence, resolve and hope. Or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat."

Point, counterpoint

On CNN's "American Morning," Kerry adviser Tad Devine said the senator from Massachusetts "has been defending America his whole adult life, and he absolutely will be very strong on the defense of this nation."

Mary Matalin, a Bush campaign adviser interviewed on "American Morning," said, "We are not saying anything that we need to apologize for. So it's time to stop the distortion, stop the histrionics, and let's engage on the issues."

"These aren't negative ads," she said, "they are ready-to-engage-on-the-issues ads. We talk about the senator's policies, his programs, his record. If he thinks that's negative then he needs to look at his own record."

Bush campaign officials also said that Kerry has been airing advertisements attacking Bush for months, as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination. Bush has had no rival for the Republican nomination.

It was not clear where Kerry's latest ad will air.

Bush's ads targeted 18 battleground states, but the Kerry camp has only a fraction of Bush's $100 million-plus war chest.

The campaign said it has picked up $7 million since Kerry became the presumptive Democratic nominee March 3. ( Special Report: America Votes 2004, The Money)

The Kerry team also launched a Web site called "D-bunker" designed to "beat back misleading Bush attacks."

Standing by comments

Kerry advisers say part of his strategy is to show he is a candidate who won't back down. They point to an incident this week in which he was caught, in what appeared to be an unguarded moment, calling those who are attacking him "the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen." (Full story)

The Bush campaign called for an apology, but Kerry refused, saying he stands by his comments about a Republican "attack machine." (The Morning Grind: He started it!)

Front and center on his Web site Friday were the words "No apologies for Republican attack squad."

"I think his message, and the message of our campaign to the Bush campaign, is simply this: 'We're not going to take it. You can send all these people out, attack Kerry, his patriotism, his service to the country -- we're simply not going to take it, we're going to push back,'" Devine said.

But Bush's campaign has said Kerry's attacks send a different message -- that Kerry is an angry liberal offering little more than partisan rhetoric.

Said Matalin, "It's time to talk about the issues, and get past the Bush bashing."

Other developments

  • Republicans pushed a $2.36 trillion budget through the Senate early Friday, a package allowing lower spending and smaller tax cuts than President Bush wants and trimming record deficits faster than he proposed. The plan largely follows the fiscal outline Bush sent lawmakers last month. Even so, its leaner approach reflects an election-year discomfort that conservative and moderate Republicans have expressed with red ink approaching a half-trillion dollars. (Full story)
  • Nebraska businessman Anthony Raimondo withdrew his name Thursday from consideration as the administration's new "manufacturing czar," two administration officials told CNN. The move came in the wake of sharp attacks from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry. Raimondo is chairman and CEO of the Behlen Manufacturing Group. (Full story)
  • A Senate Judiciary Committee bipartisan bid for a federal probe into Republican staffers' improper access to sensitive Democratic computer files collapsed in bitter disarray Thursday night, leaving the future of the investigation in question. A majority of the panel -- all nine Democrats and at least three Republicans -- had wanted to ask the Justice Department to appoint a prosecutor or even a special prosecutor to look into what the panel's senior Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont called "unprecedented partisan espionage." (Full story)
  • CNN's Bob Franken, John King and John Mercurio contributed to this report.

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