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Bush, Kerry focus on terror fight on the trail

Candidates crisscross Midwest on weekend before election


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President Bush and first lady Laura Bush wave as they are introduced Saturday at a rally in Wisconsin.
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(CNN) -- The presidential candidates devoted their attention to voters in key battleground states Saturday, pushing their domestic agendas and underscoring their strategies to fight terrorism.

Sen. John Kerry spent the morning in the showdown states of Wisconsin and Iowa before landing in Warren, Ohio. Kerry has made more than 20 visits to the state since March. Polls show him gaining on President Bush, though the race between the two candidates remains too close to call.

During the Ohio rally, Kerry urged voters to remember the importance of their choice Tuesday.

"Join with me on Tuesday and we'll change the direction of America," Kerry said to the crowd. "You get to hold Bush accountable for the last four years and set this country on the right track."

He also used the issue of national security to say that what he called Bush's mismanagement of the war on terror has put the United States and its troops at risk.

"I will wage a smarter, tougher war on terrorism," he said. "I will make America safer."

The comments were made in the wake of two videotapes that were broadcast this week -- one from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- threatening to unleash more terror attacks against the United States. Neither candidate mentioned the tapes in their speeches.

Bush spent the morning traveling across the Midwest and ended his campaign appearances in Orlando, Florida, where he hopes to capture the state's 27 electoral votes that clinched the election for him in 2000 after a Supreme Court ruling. He currently has a lead in the polls over Kerry.

During his speeches, Bush highlighted his record as a wartime president and said a steady leader is needed in the war on terror.

"The terrorists that killed thousands of people are still dangerous and ready to strike," he said at a rally in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, early in the day.

He called his opponent indecisive and said Kerry lacked the resolve needed to lead the nation during a perilous time.

"Whether you agree with me or disagree with me, you know where I stand, you know what I believe," Bush said.

Bush began the day with a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he urged supporters to go to the polls Tuesday and presented his case that he was best-suited to protect Americans. (Showdown state Michigan)

"During the last 20 years in key moments of challenge and decision, Senator Kerry has chosen the path of weakness and inaction. With that record he stands in opposition not just to me but to the great tradition of the Democratic Party," Bush said.

Kerry told a crowd in Appleton that all Americans -- Republicans and Democrats -- were united in their determination to kill bin Laden and hunt down terrorists, whom he described as "barbarians."

He said Bush was wrong to divert troops from Afghanistan and rush to war in Iraq.

"I will use all of the power that we have and all of the leadership, the leadership skill that I can summon -- and that is, believe me, more than what we have today," Kerry said. "I will lead the world in fighting a smarter, more effective, tougher, more strategic war on terror, and we will make America safer."

He repeated his assertion that Bush let bin Laden escape by using Afghan forces instead of American troops against al Qaeda in Afghanistan's Tora Bora region in the fall of 2001.

The White House has disputed that contention, and the man who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the time, retired Gen. Tommy Franks, has said it "does not square with reality."

Franks, a Bush supporter, has said that U.S. special forces played an active role at Tora Bora and that intelligence at the time placed bin Laden in any of several countries.

Both candidates have appeared in Wisconsin about a dozen times since March. In 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore edged out Bush in the state by 5,708 votes.

From Wisconsin, the two campaigns diverged, returning to other states being contested by the parties. (Showdown states: Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, Florida)

Emergency landing

The campaign plane of Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards was forced to make an emergency landing Friday night after an exploding camera battery ignited a small fire on board.

The pilot landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport about 10:45 p.m. ET. Secret Service agents put out the fire. No one was injured.

An ABC News crew's battery exploded with a loud pop about 10 minutes after the plane took off, catching an airplane seat on fire and filling the cabin with smoke for a few minutes.

Edwards was flying to an event in Ohio after returning to his hometown of Raleigh to attend a rally and cast his ballot in early voting Friday. His plane took off again about 45 minutes after the emergency landing.

Friday's incident was the second this month on Edwards' campaign plane. On October 15, a takeoff had to be aborted in Cleveland, Ohio, after a warning light indicated a problem with a generator. No was injured then either.

Showdown Hawaii

Hawaii has become an unexpected addition to the list of battleground states.

Two recent polls show the race for the state's four electoral votes is too close to call, even though only two Republicans -- Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 -- have carried Hawaii since statehood in 1959.

Vice President Dick Cheney will travel to Hawaii on Sunday, spending about 13 hours in the air for two hours on the ground.

Gore, who won Hawaii by 19 percentage points in 2000, stumped for Kerry, along with the senator's daughter Alexandra Kerry, at a high school in Honolulu.


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