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Kerry Blasts Bush Over Explosives

It was not the way President Bush wanted to start the final week of his campaign -- with more bad news from Iraq that played right into his opponent's hands, reports Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts.

Sen. John Kerry was quick to blast President Bush over news today that more than 350 metric tons of dangerous explosives had disappeared from an Iraqi munitions bunker.

"The incredible incompetence of this President and this administration has put our troops at risk and put this country at greater risk than we ought to be,'' said Kerry on the campaign stump.

The White House tried to minimize the significance of the missing explosives -- and insisted the President only learned of the problem in the past ten days

But Iraq was only one piece of trouble for Mr. Bush. The other was a statement in an interview with Fox News when asked if America will ever be free from the threat of terrorism..

"Whether or not we can be ever fully safe is up -- you know, is up in the air,'' Mr. Bush said.

It was the second time the President has expressed uncertainty on whether the war on terror can be fully won. And it let John Kerry turn the tables -- portraying President Bush as the one sending "mixed messages."

"You make me president of the United States ... we'll win the war on terror won't be up in the air whether we make America safe,'' said Kerry during a rally in Boca Raton, Fla.

But President Bush wasn't about to let Kerry get the upper hand on national security today, reports Roberts.

"On the largest national security issues of our time -- he has been consistently and dangerously wrong,'' Mr. Bush said.

The President attacked Kerry -- throwing his own words back in his face -- pointing out that while Kerry now charges Mr. Bush let Osama Bin Laden get away at Tora Bora, three years ago he said something quite different about that operation.

"I think the administration leadership has done it well and we are on the right track," said Bush, paraphrasing Kerry's statement from three years ago.

"Well, all I can tell you is that I am George W. Bush, and I approve of that message,'' Bush added, to cheers from the crowd.

It's a theme President Bush will continue to push this week -- making the case that John Kerry is not up to the job in these challenging times.

For his part, Kerry plans to keep hammering on the missing explosives. A metaphor, his campaign says, for everything the President has done wrong in Iraq.

The Kerry campaign got a boost Monday when former President Bill Clinton made his first public appearance after undergoing quadruple bypass suregery seven weeks ago. Clinton looked thin but energetic when he joined Kerry at a campaign stop in Philadelphia, reports' David Paul Kuhn.

"If this isn't good for my heart, I don't know what is,'' Clinton told the adoring crowd of about 100,000.

Mr. Clinton still has rock star appeal in the Democratic party, especially with women and African Americans: Two groups the Kerry campaign needs energized on election day, notes CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

In other campaign news, a new CBS News estimate of electoral votes gives President Bush a slight edge in the number of electoral votes.

In the new count, Bush has 227 votes from 27 states likely for or leaning toward him. John Kerry has 190 electoral voters from 14 states and the District of Columbia likely for or leaning toward him. Nine states with 121 electoral votes are pure tossups.

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