Tue, Nov 02, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Bush, Kerry target Florida, Ohio votes

SLOGAN FINALE With one day to go, George W. Bush invited Americans to 'come stand by me' while John Kerry promised a 'flurry of activity' on national security

AP , MIAMI

In the closing hours of their bitter campaign, US President George W. Bush and challenger Senator John Kerry charged through the critical battlegrounds of Florida and Ohio, going from hushed church services to raucous campaign rallies with promises to keep America safe.

Kerry said that if elected he would undertake an unprecedented "flurry of activity" to protect national security that would include quick Cabinet appointments.

"I'm going to make America safer and I have some very strong and real steps to take quite immediately to make that happen," Kerry said on Sunday in an interview.

Bush emphasized a similar theme.

"If you believe America should fight the war on terror with all her might and lead with unwavering confidence," he said on Sunday, "I ask you, come stand by me.

"If you are a Democrat who believes your party has turned too far left in this year, I ask you, come stand with me," Bush said.

Strategists on both sides said today's election will likely hinge on which party is successful in getting their voters to the polls after two vastly different and costly campaigns to increase turnout.

Kerry adviser Mike McCurry said the Democratic campaign was no longer concerned with generating big turnouts at rallies, but was focused instead on having Kerry make quick stops to attract local media coverage that might help voters decide.

The election's outcome was uncertain in the battleground states, the eight or so states where Bush and Kerry are vying for a winning margin of the 270 Electoral College votes. The campaign's final weekend was clouded by war and terrorism -- a videotape by Osama bin Laden and the deaths of eight US Marines in Iraq.

Nonetheless, Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, called the race for Bush.

"We're ahead," he told reporters in Cincinnati, Ohio, the last campaign stop on Sunday. "We will win Florida and Ohio. We will take at least two or three or four states that were won by [Democrat Al] Gore in the last election."

Bush made a pitch for Cuban voters in Miami, promising them that he would push for freedom in Cuba.

"We will not rest -- we will not rest, we will keep the pressure on until the Cuban people enjoy the same freedoms in Havana they receive here in America," Bush said.

The crowd responded with cries of "Viva Bush."

Bush began the day at The Church of the Epiphany, a Roman Catholic church where the pastor, Monsignor Jude O'Doherty, all but endorsed Bush.

"Mr. President, I want you to know that I admire your faith and your courage to profess it," the priest said in a long tribute to Bush. "Your belief in prayer and dependence on God has to be an example for all of us."

Kerry, who is Catholic, wor-shipped in Dayton, Ohio, first at a Catholic Mass and then -- for the fifth consecutive Sunday -- at a predominantly black church, the Shiloh Baptist Church.

Quoting the Bible, Kerry said, "There is a standard by which we have to live. Coming to church on Sundays and talking about faith and professing faith isn't the whole deal."

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