Presidential candidates to spar again

President George W. Bush will meet with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry tonight to respond to voters’ questions in a town-hall-style debate.

The debate is second of three debates between the candidates leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

Recent polls suggest that this debate, set to be held at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., at 9 p.m. ET could be a strong influence on public perception and opinion of the two candidates and a deciding factor in who will take office in November.

The first debate left more voters feeling better about Kerry than Bush, and following Iraq-focused first presidential and vice-presidential debates, Kerry now has a slight lead over Bush in terms of how well voters think they can protect the country from foreign assault and fight a war in Iraq, according to an Associated Press/Ipsos Public Affairs poll released yesterday.

Three-fourths of the people asked for Thursday’s poll said they had seen the debates, of whom 39 percent said they felt better about Kerry after the debate.

Only 8 percent said they felt better about Bush.

In Florida, one day after the Sept. 30 debate at the University of Miami, Kerry continued criticizing Bush’s foreign policy decisions, a recurrent and effective theme at the first debate.

“This president made a mistake to rush America to war without a plan to win the peace, and now we’re carrying 90 percent of the cost; 90 percent of the coalition casualties are American,” Kerry said, according to an Associated Press report.

In response, Bush said Kerry “voted against supplying our troops after voting for putting them in harm’s way.”

Though spokespeople from the Bush campaign claimed they and he felt optimistic about the first debate, instant polls showed that viewers largely felt that Kerry was the victor.

An ABC poll, directly following the debate, showed that 45 percent believed that Kerry won, while only 36 percent thought Bush won.

Seventeen percent said they thought it was a tie.

However, after the vice-presidential debate on Oct. 5 an ABC poll said that 43 percent of people asked thought Vice President Dick Cheney won, while only 38 percent thought John Edwards won.

At the debate Edwards bluntly accused the administration of “not being straight with the American people.”

“I’m confident that in fact we’ll get the job done,” said Cheney in response.

On Oct. 2, after an Iraq and national security-focused first debate, Bush and Kerry turned to domestic and economic issues on their respective campaign trails.

While touring through Ohio, Bush announced his new economic agenda that would partially privatize Social Security accounts, make changes in healthcare and home ownership, and cut taxes. Kerry responded, in turn, charging Bush with ignoring the needs of the middle class and resisting positive economic change.

However, the war in Iraq became a central campaign issue once again when, in Iowa, Bush called Kerry’s foreign policy “dangerous for world peace,” one of the most aggressive accusations by either candidate in weeks.

According to the Associated Press, the Kerry camp responded, “If George Bush thinks John Kerry’s plans to strengthen the military, build alliances and implement the 9/11 Commission’s intelligence reforms will make the world a more dangerous place, he’s even more detached from reality than he demonstrated at the debate the other night.”