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Kerry adviser: Bush 0 for 3 in debates

Kerry adviser Bob Shrum
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A wrapup of the final Bush-Kerry debate.

Debate between Bush and Kerry (Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)
(Part 4)
(Part 5)
(Part 6)

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John F. Kerry
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(CNN) -- President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry squared off Wednesday night for the third in their series of debates -- this time focusing on domestic issues, including the economy, jobs, taxes and same-sex marriage.

After the debate, CNN's Aaron Brown spoke to Bob Shrum, a senior adviser to the Kerry campaign, about the candidates' performances in the debate.

BROWN: Just now, we completed a poll. The [CNN/USA Today/Gallup snap] poll says your guy won 52 [percent to] 39 [percent]. I assume you don't disagree with that at all.

SHRUM: I don't disagree with that, and it confirms other polls. It confirms other focus groups. I think George Bush is now 0 for 3 in the debates, and one of the reasons is that the middle class is 0 for 4 in the Bush presidential years.

BROWN: Were there opportunities missed? And let me suggest one. The subject of stem cell [research] came up in a question. I know it's an issue you guys like a lot. You feel it's an issue that works for you. The candidate didn't go for it. Was that a mistake?

SHRUM: I think people have a very clear idea from the second debate of where John Kerry stands on stem cell research.

I think the big missed opportunities tonight were that George Bush basically punted on the minimum wage, he punted on equal pay for women, he punted on jobs. He told everybody that things were really rosy, and he had no jobs program.

He had nothing really to say about health care, other than throwing out a couple of titles. And when Sen. Kerry challenged him again on why we didn't pursue, hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden, he basically said nothing.

You know, I thought the president, by the way, had a good moment. It was a good moment he shared with Sen. Kerry, and that was when they talked about their family. But the problem for President Bush is he's pretty good at talking about his family, and he's not very good at talking about the country.

BROWN: Would you agree that of the three debates, looking at both men, as objectively as you can, that this was the least impressive performance for both of them in the three?

SHRUM: No. I actually thought that George Bush was better in this debate than he was in the first debate. I think it would have been hard for him not to be.

I thought Sen. Kerry continued a string of very impressive performances, where people saw that he was presidential, where they understood that he could defend this country and fight for the middle class at the same time. And I think the country wants a president who can walk and chew gum at the same time.

BROWN: The debates are over. Do you have a single theme you want to run with for the next three weeks?

SHRUM: Well, I think there are -- I think there are obviously two big questions before the country. One is how we're going to make it safer, how we're going to defend it. I think John Kerry is very persuasive, very powerful on that.

The Bush campaign obviously made a terrible mistake in saying, "We really want the first debate to be on foreign policy." I'm glad they did. And the second big question before the country is who's going to stand up and fight for the middle class, not the HMOs, not the big insurance companies, not the big drug companies and not the top 1 percent of income earners.

John Kerry's going to give a tax cut to the middle class. President Bush wants more tax cuts for those at the top and has $3 billion in spending he doesn't pay for.

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