Democrat John Kerry sought to undercut US President George W. Bush on national security by charging that the president was trying to scare voters with talk of terrorism. Bush portrayed his opponent as indecisive and suffering from "election amnesia" with conflicting stands on Iraq. \nRacing toward a finish line 10 days away in an election too close to call, Bush yesterday hopscotched by Marine helicopter to rallies in Republican-friendly areas of Florida, the state that put him in the White House four years ago. \nHis chopper landings on baseball fields, before thousands of cheering supporters, underscored Bush's ability to use the powers of the presidency for his campaign. \nBush in Florida \nAnd if the helicopter arrivals weren't enough, Bush had Air Force One fly over the NFL football stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, where tens of thousands of people were waiting to hear him speak. \nIraq and the war on terrorism dominated the campaign debate, reflecting voters' anxieties as the election nears. Kerry's advisers acknowledged that the issues play to Bush's political strength as commander-in-chief, but said confronting the president may be the best way to weaken his standing. \nFor hundreds of thousands of voters, the time of decision is over already. Thirty-two states allow for some form of early voting, either in person or by absentee ballot, and many voters are taking advantage of the opportunity. \nBush mocked Kerry for criticizing him on Iraq, saying the senator now calls it the "wrong war" after voting to authorize force and calling it the right decision when US troops invaded. \n"Senator Kerry seems to have forgotten all that as his position has evolved during the course of the campaign," Bush said. "You might call it election amnesia." \nIn Farmington, New Mexico, Vice President Dick Cheney said if Kerry had been president in the 1980s and 1990s, the Soviet Union might still exist and Saddam Hussein might control the Persian Gulf and possess nuclear weapons. \n"I think it's a good thing that he wasn't in charge," Cheney said. \nKerry opened the day in Pueblo, Colorado, asking voters to choose what he described as his optimistic outlook. "Vote your hopes, not the fears that George Bush wants you to feel," Kerry said. "Vote your hopes for our nation. Vote the possibilities of our country." \nKerry in southwest \nKerry's southwestern swing briefly touched Bush's adopted home state of Texas, but only as an airport landing before a rally in Las Cruces, New Mexico. \n"This president keeps going around the country trying to scare people," Kerry said. "The only thing he wants to talk about is terror, the war on terror, national security. If that's the debate we want to have, I'm prepared to have that debate because I can wage a better war on terror than George Bush has." \nKerry picked up several newspaper endorsements, including one in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post that said he was the better bet to achieve his goals "both to fight in Iraq and reach out to allies, to hunt down terrorists and to engage without arrogance the Islamic world." \nBush also got his share of newspaper endorsements, including one that noted the president "finds it difficult to admit a mistake" but concluded that "history is replete with instances in which imperfect but confident national leaders proved preferable to cautious, indecisive ones."
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