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Kerry, Bush promote economic plans

Democrat hits president for 'truth deficit'

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Stay with CNN for updates and analysis from the campaign trail and in the aftermath of Condoleeza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission.
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(CNN) -- Democratic presidential contender John Kerry charged Tuesday that the Bush administration had a "truth deficit," decrying what he described as misrepresentations of his positions.

The harsh words came as Kerry and President Bush made separate speeches on the economy.

Kerry spoke about his plan to revitalize the economy -- including a proposal to end tax breaks for U.S. companies that move jobs overseas -- in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his speech was interrupted by Republican protesters.

They waved flip-flop sandals in the air, a gesture that underscored a GOP criticism that Kerry has reversed his stance on a number of issues.

As an example, Republicans have cited Kerry's vote in support of war against Iraq and his subsequent vote against a spending bill for that effort. Kerry has said that second vote reflects his belief that Bush misled Congress about the threat posed by Iraq.

Kerry chastised the protesters for being rude and having "no manners." And he said the criticism was better aimed at Bush.

"You want to talk about flip-flops -- this president one day said Condoleezza Rice is not going to testify; the next day she's going to testify," Kerry said, referring to the White House's agreement to let the national security adviser testify before the 9/11 commission after initially refusing to do so.

Meanwhile, the president traveled Tuesday to El Dorado, Arkansas, visiting a community college for the second day in a row to talk about the economy and job training.

"We want every citizen in this country to get the skills necessary to fill the jobs in the 21st century," Bush said.

Bush announced a plan Monday to overhaul the federal job training program, including a doubling of the number of workers who go through such training.(Full story)

His speech Tuesday covered much of the same ground, as he touted the efforts of community colleges to prepare workers for a changing economy.

The president also again defended his policy in Iraq, vowing not to "cut and run" in the face of increased violence against U.S. forces there.

The two campaigns are offering rival views on the economy in advance of the November election.

Bush offers an optimistic assessment, saying the economy hit a rough spot, but is strong and getting stronger. Kerry says American workers have suffered under the Bush administration.

Kerry also said Republican ads are misrepresenting his stance on taxes. "They're telling the American people that I'm going to raise the taxes on the American people."

In response, Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, challenged Kerry to submit his tax proposals to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.

Citing what he called the overall haziness of Kerry's tax plans, Portman stated that from where he sits in Ohio, Kerry's proposals "simply don't add up."

"What specific programs will he cut, what specific taxes will he raise?" Portman asked in a conference call with reporters.

Monday, the Kerry campaign released a report that said the Bush administration pushed more than $6 trillion in new initiatives without proper funding, which according to Kerry resulted in "deficits across the country."

Among the Bush proposals it cited were tax cuts, privatization of Social Security and Medicare reform. (Full story)

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman called the report "the ultimate example of Sen. Kerry trying to project his own weaknesses onto the president."

Kerry is scheduled later this week to travel to Wisconsin and Illinois to continue discussions on plans to revitalize the economy. He will deliver a speech Wednesday at Georgetown University in Washington.

Other developments

  • Public impressions of Bush and Kerry were almost unchanged despite millions of dollars spent on television ads, according to the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey. The survey, conducted in 18 battleground states, found that 41 percent viewed Kerry favorably in the first part of March compared with 39 percent during the last half, while Bush's favorability rating was 49 percent in early March and 48 percent in late March. (Full story)
  • Kerry said it's possible that he will meet with Independent candidate Ralph Nader, whose campaign could potentially draw votes away from the Democrat, Reuters reports. Kerry reportedly said he would reach out to Nader's supporters in hopes of convincing them that he was the best chance of defeating Bush.
  • CNN's Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

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