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AP NSL Media Journal Week #5 (1)

AP NSL Media Journal Week #5 (1) - War in Iraq Likely to Be...

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September 30, 2004 War in Iraq Likely to Be Topic One - Poll Numbers Put Pressure on Kerry By Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post Staff Writers CORAL GABLES, Fla., Sept. 29 -- President Bush and Democratic challenger John F. Kerry will meet here Thursday night for a high-stakes debate that will produce their first direct confrontation over the war in Iraq and that strategists say will be Kerry's best opportunity to shake up a contest that is tilting in Bush's direction. The two candidates have sparred heatedly over Iraq for months, with Bush accusing Kerry of shifting his positions on whether the war was right or wrong and with the Massachusetts senator newly on the offensive, charging that the president has made a series of decisions that have produced a quagmire in Iraq and left the United States more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Kerry comes to the first of three presidential debates under pressure to rise to the moment. Over the past week, nearly a dozen national polls have been released. When taken together, they suggest that Bush is leading by five to six percentage points. Beyond that, the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll and other surveys show that on the major issues in the campaign and on a series of personal and presidential attributes, voters view Bush more favorably than Kerry. Both sides know that debates can change the dynamic of a campaign, but a senior Kerry adviser, who declined to be identified so he could speak freely, said his candidate must use Thursday's debate to erode Bush's advantage on the Iraq war and terrorism or face a daunting challenge in the final four weeks of the campaign.
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