- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

BAYONNE, N.J. — The Kerry campaign dispatched vice-presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards to this overwhelmingly Democratic state yesterday — a second time in as many weeks — to shore up waning support here.

Mr. Edwards delivered a stinging rebuke of President Bush yesterday afternoon, calling the war in Iraq — which both he and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry voted to authorize — a “diversion from the war on terror.”

“It was wrong. It was a mistake,” he said. “We should have stayed focused on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and the war on terror. Instead, they diverted their attention. Instead, they began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.”

The Edwards visits come after several recent polls showed President Bush narrowly trailing Mr. Kerry in this state, mainly because of high marks the president gets for his handling of the war on terror. Four years ago, New Jersey voters rejected Mr. Bush by a margin of more than 15 percentage points.

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University during the past week showed Mr. Bush three points behind Mr. Kerry, and a poll conducted last month by the Newark Star-Ledger showed Mr. Bush just two points behind Mr. Kerry. Other polls have shown wider margins in favor of Mr. Kerry, but the presidential race in the state is still much tighter than in 2000.

The Bush campaign said yesterday that Mr. Edwards’ visits here show that the Kerry campaign “is playing defense in states they should have wrapped up.”

“Misleading attacks by his running mate cannot obscure John Kerry’s record of indecision and shifting positions,” said Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt. “His global test would cede decisions about American security to foreign nations, and his strategy of retreat would give victory to the terrorists.”

The Bush spokesman accused Mr. Edwards of peddling “myths” about national security in an effort to erode the confidence that New Jersey voters — who had a front-row seat for the September 11 attacks in New York City — have in Mr. Bush’s handling of the war on terror.

Mr. Edwards was joined yesterday by several women supporters who lost family members in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, across the Hudson River and five miles upstream from this port city.

One of the women, Terry McGovern, accused Mr. Bush of withholding information prior to the September 11 attacks that would have prevented the death of her mother. She said Mr. Bush has exploited terrorism for political purposes.

Diane Horning, whose son died in the attack, blamed Mr. Bush for anti-American sentiment abroad.

“The more that we are hated, the less secure I feel,” she said. “I need the Kerry-Edwards inclusive approach to foreign policy in order to feel safe again.”

Mr. Edwards was introduced by 22-year-old Annie MacRae, who lost a sister in the 2001 attacks.

“President Bush has politicized September 11th to a despicable degree,” Miss MacRae said. “Using the memory of the day that our family members were murdered in his campaign ads and speeches, he has deliberately evoked our loss for his political gain, manipulating our grief to justify an unjust war.”

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Edwards appeared on the morning show “Live With Regis and Kelly,” on which hostess Kelly Ripa told Mr. Edwards he should be portrayed in a movie by actor Tom Cruise. Mr. Edwards suggested that actor Jack Nicholson should play Vice President Dick Cheney.

Last month, Mr. Kerry appeared on the show, and Mrs. Ripa suggested that he be played by Harrison Ford. Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Cheney have appeared on the popular show co-hosted by Regis Philbin.

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