PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — President Bush said yesterday that he will try to spend part of tonight’s domestic policy debate against Sen. John Kerry talking about foreign policy, especially the war on terrorism.
“I’m looking forward to probably spending a little time, hopefully, on the war on terror because there’s a big difference of opinion on the war on terror,” he told 400 supporters in a sweltering tent here.
Unlike the Democrat, Mr. Bush opted against a final day of preparation for the concluding presidential debate. Instead, he spent yesterday stumping for votes with daughter Jenna.
During speeches in the battleground states of Colorado and Arizona, Mr. Bush spoke expansively about domestic issues, the topic of tonight’s debate. Although poll results show that more Americans than not say Mr. Kerry won the first two debates, the president called the verbal jousting instructive.
“Those debates have highlighted the clear differences between the senator and me on issues ranging from jobs to taxes to health care to the war on terror,” he told a crowd in Colorado Springs.
“Much as he’s tried to obscure it, on issue after issue, my opponent has showed why he earned his ranking as the most liberal member of the United States Senate,” Mr. Bush added.
As if practicing for tonight’s debate, the president delved into more than a dozen domestic issues that are likely to come up in the 90-minute exchange in Tempe, Ariz. These included energy, taxes, trade and tort reform.
“You’re not going to have fiscal sanity if John Kerry is the president,” Mr. Bush said. “He’s been the most liberal member of the United States Senate, which means he likes to spend your money.
“That’s what that means,” he said. “Now, he can try to run from his record, but I’m not going to let him hide.”
Careful to highlight social issues that are important to conservatives, Mr. Bush also made references to abortion, marriage and the importance of nominating “strict constructionist” judges.
Finally, the president spent considerable time talking about reforms of education, Social Security and health care, especially Medicare.
“I can’t wait for the health care debate,” he said. “There is a vast difference of opinion about health care. And I’m absolutely confident our view is the way to help make sure health care is available and affordable.”
Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer disagreed.
“Health care has put a serious dent into family budgets,” he said. “George Bush’s answer to this crisis is to stand in the way of cheaper prescription drugs, block Medicare from offering lower prices to seniors, and oppose real health care reform.”
Mr. Bush was introduced yesterday by Jenna for the first time in the campaign, and he seemed moved by the gesture.