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Bush To Make His Case

As President Bush prepared to accept the Republican nomination for a second term, Vice President Dick Cheney portrayed his boss as a decisive commander in chief. "He doesn't waffle, he doesn't agonize," Cheney said Thursday.

"That's exactly what we need in a president. We don't need indecision or confusion," Cheney said at a breakfast with Ohio delegates on the concluding day of the Republican National Convention.

Mr. Bush was attending a worship service at a Park Avenue church and then making a brief visit to the Madison Square Garden convention site for a microphone and podium check ahead of his prime-time speech.

Meanwhile, about 100 anti-Bush demonstrators staged a quick, loud and well-organized protest at Grand Central Terminal during Thursday's rush hour, unfurling banners and colorful balloons that called on the president to do more in the fight against AIDS. Nineteen people were arrested after they refused police orders to leave.

Convention-related arrests for the week number more than 1,700, far surpassing those made in much more violent circumstances at Chicago's 1968 Democratic convention.

Cheney, who unleashed a withering attack on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in his speech to the convention Wednesday night, cited Ohio's importance in deciding the election and why he believes Mr. Bush is the right person to be president.

"When he has to make a decision, he doesn't waffle, he doesn't agonize over it," Cheney told the Ohio gathering.

No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio. Mr. Bush carried the state narrowly in 2000 but polls show it to be a dead heat this year.

Mr. Bush's speech will touch off a two-month dash to the finish line in a nation that seems as closely divided now as it was four years ago.

Mr. Bush, who arrived in this fortified convention city Wednesday night at the end of a three-day, six-state campaign dash, will use his acceptance address to boast of his record and sketch the domestic agenda he would pursue if re-elected, a goal that eluded his father. He'll also talk — sometimes in personal terms, his advisers said — about how the terrorist attacks altered him and the world.

"President Bush in the time of war has made some very difficult decisions, and he will speak from the podium tonight and talk to our soldiers and talk to the world about why we're doing what we're doing," White House communications director Dan Bartlett told CBS' Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

The speech also will offer an agenda that includes initiatives to simplify the tax code and help people buy homes, start businesses, hone job skills and set up tax-free retirement and health care accounts, aides said.

Ahead of Mr. Bush's acceptance address, Cheney and convention keynoter Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., unleashed a scathing barrage of attacks on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision and sends a message of confusion," Cheney told GOP delegates in a prime-time address Wednesday night. "Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual. America sees two John Kerrys."

Reacting to the pounding by Cheney and Miller, Kerry spokesman Joe Lockhart said: "Slash and burn politics didn't work in 1992. They won't work now. Dick Cheney and Zell Miller looked like angry and grumpy old men."

Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, made the round of morning talk shows Thursday to defend the ticket. He said the "over the top" GOP attacks distorted Kerry's record and made him mad.

"What we heard from the Republicans in that hall last night, was an enormous amount of anger and very little … discussion about what they're going to do about healthcare, what they're going to do about jobs, what they plan to do about this mess in Iraq." Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards told CBS' Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm.

Trying to slow Mr. Bush's momentum, the Kerry campaign plans a seven-state advertising blitz in Ohio, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Wisconsin as the first installment of a $50 million, 20-state fall ad buy. The campaign will air new ads that seek to shift the focus of the campaign to the economy. In the ads, Kerry pledges to "stand up for the middle class" and suggests that Mr. Bush "sides with the special interests."

CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts reports Lockhart, President Bill Clinton's former press secretary, was brought in, along with other Clinton veterans, to sharpen Kerry's public image and to apply the old Clinton playbook: When attacked, attack back even harder.

There was some evidence of that strategy Wednesday.

"When it comes to Iraq, it's not that I would have done one thing differently, I would have done almost everything differently," Kerry said Wednesday, speaking to the American Legion in Nashville, Tenn.

Within minutes of his arrival in New York on Wednesday, Mr. Bush was embracing city firefighters at a community center in Queens.

"To see the courage and compassion and decency of our fellow Americans during an incredible time of stress has shaped my thinking about the future of this country," Mr. Bush said.

Much has changed since Mr. Bush stood at Ground Zero three days after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and told construction workers through a bullhorn: "I can hear you. ... And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

That speech helped lead to a surge of national unity before the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that went after al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and his Taliban supporters.

But as Mr. Bush seeks re-election, he is confronted by a death toll of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq that is likely to reach 1,000 by Nov. 2; a failure to find bin Laden; investigations into pre-Sept. 11 and prewar intelligence lapses; and an economy that has yet to fully rebound.