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Homeland Security, a Politicized Issue; To Suspicious Candidates, the Threat of Attack Is No Longer Above the Fray
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Terrorism; Politics; Political campaigns; Presidential elections; National security
Author: John Mintz and Mike Allen
Date: Jun 27, 2004
Start Page: A.06
Section: A SECTION

The battle lines between [Bush] and [John F. Kerry] are evenly drawn. In a June 20 Washington Post-ABC News poll, when voters were asked to name the candidate they trust to do a better job handling the war on terrorism, 48 percent favored Kerry and 47 percent preferred Bush. Just a month before, voters chose Bush by 52 to 39 percent.

In a Bush campaign conference call with reporters, campaign manager Ken Mehlman was asked to back up the statement that Kerry was pressured by liberals or that Kerry opposed wiretaps, but did not. He said Kerry objected to the USA Patriot Act after liberals did, and that "a common-sense reading indicates he intends to repeal those important tools."

Hours later, [John D. Ashcroft] held his news conference, describing a graver danger than [Tom Ridge] had described. Ashcroft said al Qaeda was "90 percent" finished preparing for an attack here. People close to Ridge said he and his aides were deeply frustrated by Ashcroft's statements, because the Homeland Security Department, not the Justice Department, has the authority to issue such alerts. Ashcroft had not vetted that language with other officials, they said.

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