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Inside Politics

Clinton hits campaign trail for Kerry

Kerry attacks Bush on missing Iraqi explosives

Sen. John Kerry embraces singer Bruce Springsteen after Springsteen performed at a campaign rally Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.
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(CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton will be back on the campaign trail Friday for a three-day trip to help get out the vote for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Clinton will travel from New York to a pair of deadlocked battleground states -- Nevada on Friday and New Mexico on Saturday -- before returning Sunday to rally the faithful in his native Arkansas, which slipped into the Republican win column four years ago.

On Friday, Kerry will be campaigning in the contested territory of Florida as he speaks in Orlando, West Palm Beach and Miami before flying to Appleton, Wisconsin, for the night.

On Thursday, Kerry told thousands of supporters that President Bush is attempting to duck responsibility for the 380 tons of explosives reported missing from a weapons dump in Iraq.

The missing explosives "speak to the continuing misjudgments all along the way of this president," he told a rally in Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, a battleground state whose 10 electoral votes he is courting. (Showdown state: Wisconsin)

The explosives -- considered powerful enough to detonate nuclear warheads -- were reported missing earlier this month in a letter from the interim Iraqi government to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog organization.

The Iraqi letter, dated October 10, blamed the theft and looting of government installations on a "lack of security" during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The disappearance of the explosives has become a campaign issue since the Iraqi letter was reported Monday by The New York Times.

David Kay, a former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, said Wednesday the explosives were probably looted, although the Pentagon and an Army commander dispute that. (Mystery of missing explosives continues)

However, video shot by a TV crew embedded with the 101st Airborne Division shows barrels of explosives in unguarded bunkers in the al-Qaqaa complex on April 18, 2003, nine days after the fall of Baghdad. Kay said what looked like U.N. seals were visible on the bunker doors.

Kerry said the Bush administration was warned about the site by the U.N. weapons inspectors, but "our forces were never, ever given the order to secure that weapons dump."

In a campaign speech earlier in Saginaw, Michigan, Bush responded to Kerry's attacks on the subject, saying that "Senator Kerry is again attacking the actions of our military in Iraq with complete disregard for the facts." (Showdown state: Michigan) (Bush: Kerry has record of weakness)

Kerry said U.S. troops are doing "a heroic job" in Iraq but that the Bush administration had failed in its responsibility.

"We need a president of the United States who can do more than one thing at the same time," he said. "We need a president who understands how to defend this great nation of ours, but we also need a president who understands how to lift up the lives of people struggling to get into the middle class."

Kerry contrasted recent price increases of health care premiums and gasoline with job losses over the last four years.

Since Bush took office, the economy has lost 1.6 million private sector jobs and 2.7 million manufacturing jobs, although it began regaining jobs earlier this year -- at least 1.7 million as of August -- according to by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Kerry said that every administration over the past 70 years "had recessions, they had a stock market dip, they had bigger wars, but they created jobs in America, and so will I."

During the rally, the senator also mocked Bush's performance in the three presidential debates.

"He kept saying, 'It's hard work, it's hard work, it's hard work.' Well, let me tell you, I'm looking at you and I'll tell you, I'm ready and I'm impatient to relieve this president of that hard work and get to work for America," said Kerry.

Kerry was backed up by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, who played "No Surrender," which the candidate called "our theme song."

"It look like Senator Kerry draws a pretty big crowd," said Springsteen, who is accustomed to playing to stadiums packed with fans.

Thursday's event in Wisconsin exceeded what authorities expected.

The Madison Fire Department and mayor's office estimated the crowd at more than 80,000 people, far more than the 50,000 to 60,000 they predicted, said Assistant Fire Chief Carl Saxe.

"I may be running for president of the United States, but we all know who the real boss is," Kerry said, alluding to the Springsteen's nickname -- "The Boss."

Thursday morning, Kerry made yet another campaign stop in Ohio, a showdown state with 20 electoral votes both candidates are fervently courting. (Showdown state: Ohio)

Kerry used the opportunity to attack Bush over Iraq. The senator charged that Bush jumped to conclusions about the September 11, 2001, terrorists having a link with Saddam Hussein, about weapons of mass destruction being in Iraq and about how the Iraqi people would receive U.S. troops.

Kerry flew to Florida on Thursday evening.

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