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Kerry: Bush out of touch, out of ideas, out of time
Updated: 2004-10-15 09:58

Democratic challenger John Kerry, pumped up by polls showing he won all three debates with President Bush, dismissed the Republican incumbent on Thursday as out of touch, out of ideas and out of time.

The Massachusetts senator kicked off a 19-day sprint to the Nov. 2 election with a stinging critique of Bush's domestic policies and an appeal to middle-class Americans to give him the opportunity to fight for them.

"I believe we need a fresh start in America," he told the AARP, a 35 million-member organization that lobbies for elderly Americans. "I believe we need a president who will fight for the great middle class and those struggling to join it and if you give me the chance, I am ready to be that president."

With most snap opinion polls showing Kerry won the third and final debate with Bush in Tempe, Arizona, on Wednesday, the senator hit hard, saying the president had helped his "powerful and well-connected friends" at the expense of average Americans who could not afford another four years of "the Bush economy."

"George Bush had four years to do something -- anything -- to make life better for hard-working families," Kerry said. "But instead of seizing the moment, he has squandered the opportunity and then he has spent his entire campaign trying to make us believe the unbelievable."

From shipping jobs overseas to becoming the first president in 72 years to lose jobs on his watch, Bush had ignored reality and tried to "spin until he's dizzy," Kerry said.

"The president has proven beyond a doubt that he's out of touch with the average middle-class family, he's out of ideas and he's unwilling to change course," Kerry said. "The good news is that is in 19 days we can change all of this, we can leave it behind us. Our moment is now."

In a virtual dead heat in national polls, Kerry appealed to elderly voters who could make the difference in critical battleground states like Florida and Ohio.

The AARP supported controversial Medicare prescription drug legislation that Bush won from Congress a year ago. Kerry opposed the measure and called it a $139 billion windfall for big drug companies.

"I know that this issue is one where the AARP and I have disagreed," he said. "But I can't just come here and not tell you the truth. George Bush's Medicare bill is full of empty promises and special-interest giveaways."

Kerry cited the measure as an example of Bush's inability to connect with the plight of ordinary Americans.

"The AARP tried to work with the president," he said. " but in the end, the president was not working for America's seniors and maybe that's why he won't show up today to defend his bill."

First lady Laura Bush addressed the AARP convention shortly before the Democratic presidential nominee, while Bush spoke elsewhere in Las Vegas to a rally of Republican mayors.

Democrats claimed a debate "threepeat" and "a clean sweep" but the candidate stopped just short of declaring himself the outright winner.

"My friends, after three debates, two conventions, and months of campaigning, we stand at a moment of great possibility and great hope," Kerry told the AARP. "I hope you won't mind if I hold off on retirement ... there's this one last job I'm hoping to start in January."

The Bush campaign said Kerry had "no credibility" on seniors' issues like the Medicare health insurance program because he had "consistently opposed" their interests.

"The reality is Kerry opposed the president's prescription drug benefit that was endorsed by the AARP, and seniors are not going to trust a candidate who has voted five times for Medicare premium increases," spokesman Steve Schmidt said.

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