ORLANDO, Fla. — Demo-cratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, arguing that President Bush has lost touch with middle-class voters, promised them yesterday that “I’ve got your back.”
With one new poll, for Newsweek magazine, after Thursday’s debate on national security showing Mr. Kerry having erased Mr. Bush’s polling lead, the Massachusetts senator pivoted sharply from the war in Iraq to the economy, tying both issues together in charging the president doesn’t see the real world, and therefore, can’t make the right choices.
“George Bush can’t see the problems, so he can’t solve them,” Mr. Kerry said. “… And it’s not just in Iraq. Over the last four years, he has made a series of serious misjudgments here at home.”
Speaking to about 1,000 supporters at a high school auditorium in Orlando, Mr. Kerry attacked Mr. Bush’s push to make all of his tax cuts permanent, arguing that the reason Mr. Bush has shirked domestic needs is that the tax cuts have made it fiscally impossible to address them.”
George Bush has decided now that the budget constraints have left him no choice but to propose kicking 500,000 kids out of their after-school programs, 365,000 children out of their child care, 500,000 veterans out of the health-care system and 100,000 police officers off the streets,” he said.
Mr. Kerry’s advisers say Mr. Bush appeared to be disconnected from reality during Thursday’s debate — “he inherited that out-of-touch gene from his father,” said adviser Mike McCurry, and they hope to drive that message home on more issues than national security.
In 1992, when Mr. Bush’s father was running for re-election, the elder President Bush was criticized for being “out of touch” after newspapers reported he seemed flummoxed by a digital scanner at a grocery store.
Mr. Kerry yesterday said he can relate to middle-class voters, because he’s heard their stories throughout this campaign. He recalled a story from a recent trip to Ohio when a woman gave one of his staffers a message to tell him, “We’ve got your back.”
“I’ve got a message for that woman, for every other middle-class family that’s struggling to build a better life for themselves and for their families — I’ve got your back,” Mr. Kerry said. “I’ve got your back because I know what you’re going through.”
The Bush campaign said the costs of Mr. Kerry’s domestic proposals would force him to raise taxes on everyone.
“His own advisers have said his numbers don’t add up, have said his outsourcing plan won’t stop outsourcing, and have called his energy plan ‘asinine’ and ‘misleading,’” said campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt.
“John Kerry’s tired ideas of more taxes and more spending will take control out of the hands of individuals and place it in the hands of the government,” he said.
Mr. Bush was in Ohio yesterday, where he continued to pound on Mr. Kerry’s statement during the debate that he would subject any attempt at pre-emption to a “global test.”
A new Newsweek poll taken after the debate and released yesterday shows Mr. Kerry now leading Mr. Bush 49 percent to 46 percent in a head-to-head matchup, and 47 percent to 45 percent if independent candidate Ralph Nader is included. Mr. Nader receives 2 percent in the poll, which also found that 61 percent of respondents who watched Thursday’s debate thought Mr. Kerry won.
Mr. McCurry said that by pivoting to economic issues yesterday, Mr. Kerry’s speech was an attempt to set the outlines of the remaining two debates, much as his speech at New York University two weeks ago criticizing the war was meant to frame this past week’s security debate.
In beginning his remarks yesterday, Mr. Kerry thanked his supporters for taking a break from cleaning up hurricane damage. He also congratulated Freedom High School, which opened a year ago, for winning its first football game ever on Friday.
“I know how tough it is to be able to build a team and come from nowhere,” he said.