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Bush ad: Kerry for higher gas tax

Kerry on the stump: 'These are Halliburton prices'
A new Bush ad floats the notion that Kerry would raise gas taxes, if elected.

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Amid record-high gasoline prices, the Bush-Cheney campaign is releasing a new television ad, based on an old theme, painting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee as a tax-raising liberal -- this time using rising pump prices as fuel.

In a commercial called "Wacky" -- shot in the style of an old black-and-white movie -- the new Bush commercial floats the notion that Sen. John Kerry would raise gas taxes, if elected.

"Some people have wacky ideas, like taxing gasoline more -- so people will drive less. That's John Kerry. He supported a 50-cent gas tax," an announcer says in the commercial, which is set to air Wednesday on national cable networks and in 18 states.

"If Kerry's gas tax increase were law -- the average family would pay $657 more a year. Raising taxes is a habit of Kerry's -- he supported gasoline taxes 11 times. Maybe John Kerry just doesn't understand what his ideas mean to the rest of us."

The spot ends with the words "John Kerry -- Wrong on Taxes" on the screen.

The Bush commercial plays to public perception of the Massachusetts senator.

In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday, respondents were asked if they thought their own taxes would go up if Kerry wins the election -- 58 percent said yes, while only 29 percent said no. (Full story)

Kerry's take on prices

With pump prices averaging a record-setting $1.77 for self-serve unleaded, both camps have been eager to pin the blame on the other.

Kerry took aim at the Bush administration during a campaign fundraiser in San Francisco late Monday.

"I noticed that gas is now close to three dollars a gallon here in California. If it keeps going up like that, folks, pretty shortly Cheney and President Bush are going to have to carpool to work together," the Massachusetts senator deadpanned.

While Kerry overstated the price of gasoline -- San Diego is highest in the nation, averaging $2.12 a gallon in Sunday's Lundberg Survey of U.S. filling stations -- California does have the highest average prices in the country.

"These are not Exxon prices -- those are Halliburton prices," Kerry said, poking at the company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Both the Pentagon and Justice Department have launched criminal investigations of the company, which is accused of overcharging on services provided in Iraq.

Democratic critics say Halliburton is an example of war profiteering by companies friendly to the Bush administration.

Company and administration officials say politics had nothing to do with Halliburton's contracts in Iraq.

"You have to give this administration credit because they clearly understand the connection between gas prices and the economy, because their approach to a solution of these high gas prices is just to make sure no one has a job to drive to," Kerry said at the San Francisco fundraiser.

The Bush administration has presided over the loss of more than 2 million jobs in an economy adversely affected by the dot-com bust, a recession and post-9/11 terrorism fears.

However, Bush has highlighted an increase in American productivity, home ownership and an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent -- below the average unemployment rate for the last three decades.

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