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Inside Politics

Candidates bid for voter turnout

Bush talks security; Kerry attacks Iraq policy


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President Bush starts his Monday campaigning with a rally in Greeley, Colorado.
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CNN's Ed Henry previews the final week of campaigning.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is joining the president campaign roadshow.

Sen. John Kerry in Florida with former Vice President Al Gore.
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(CNN) -- The final week of the campaign has begun with both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry trying to reach undecided voters and motivate their respective party bases.

With national polls continuing to show a dead heat, the two candidates are moving beyond their standard stump/policy speeches and drawing upon the support of big names and famous faces. (Special Report: America Votes 2004)

With that in mind, Kerry appeared Monday in Philadelphia with former President Bill Clinton, who returned to the campaign trail in one of the three biggest swing states. (Full story)

Kerry launched a blistering attack on Bush regarding the reported disappearance of tons of explosives from an Iraqi stockpile after the U.S. invasion. (IAEA: Tons of Iraq explosives missing)

Bush, meanwhile, countered repeated charges that al Qaeda terror leader Osama bin Laden could have been captured in the mountains of Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in the fall of 2001.

Bush accused his Democratic rival of making a "wild claim" that amounts to "unjustified criticism of our military commanders in the field."

"This is the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking," Bush told a rally in Iowa, echoing a line of attack he made earlier at a campaign stop in Colorado.

To hit home his point, Bush quoted remarks about the Afghanistan war made by Kerry around the time of the U.S. attack on Tora Bora, in which the senator told CNN's Larry King, "The administration leadership has done it well" and that "we are on the right track."

"Well, all I can say is that I am George W. Bush, and I approve of that message," the president said to applause from a partisan crowd.

In the fall of 2001, U.S. forces launched a vigorous assault on a compound at Tora Bora, where it was believed bin Laden and other al Qaeda or Taliban forces might be hiding.

During the course of the presidential campaign, Kerry has repeatedly charged that bin Laden escaped because U.S. forces opted to "outsource" the task of capturing him to Afghan forces, which the senator said showed how badly the administration had handled the war on terror.

At the time, the Pentagon acknowledged that it had relied on Afghan forces in an effort to minimize the potential loss of U.S. military lives.

U.S. officials even acknowledged that the report prompted a change in strategy, pushing American troops to the forefront of the fighting to replace local fighters who may have been loyal to bin Laden.

It still is not clear whether bin Laden was in the area or not but Bush administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, said shortly after the operation that it appeared the al Qaeda leader was nearby, possibly along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in April 2002 that it was "entirely possible" that bin Laden was in Tora Bora during the failed operation.

On Monday, Bush quoted retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who commanded U.S. forces in the Afghan theater at the time, as saying Kerry's charge "does not square with reality." Franks is a Bush supporter.

"The general says that America's Special Forces were actively involved in the search for terrorists in Tora Bora and that intelligence reports at the time place bin Laden in any of several countries," Bush said.

Clinton returns to campaign trail

Marking his widely anticipated return to the campaign trail after heart bypass surgery, Clinton told a crowd of voters, "In eight days, John Kerry's going to make America the comeback country."

"John Kerry's got a better plan," Clinton said, lauding the senator's domestic platform, including his vow to repeal the tax cut for people -- such as Clinton himself, he noted -- who make more than $200,000 a year.

"He wants to finally give us a chance to make a contribution to America's economic recovery and to the fight against terrorism," Clinton said. "Most of us want our chance ... and we don't want our children and our grandchildren paying for the cost of our tax cuts."

Polls: Race extremely close

President Bush holds an average 3 percentage point lead over Sen. John Kerry, according to the CNN's average of national polling.

The five national polls conducted in the past four days show an average 49 percent to 46 percent lead for Bush.

In a CNN/USA Today/ Gallup opinion poll published Monday, Bush holds onto a 5-percentage-point lead among likely voters. (Poll: Bush has five point lead with likely voters)

Fifty-one percent of likely voters said they would back Bush, and 46 percent expressed support for Kerry. The margin of error for this subset of respondents also is plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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