JIM LEHRER: The day after the last presidential debate. Tom Bearden reports.
TOM BEARDEN: This morning, President Bush made the short trip aboard Air Force One from Phoenix, the site of last night's debate, to Las Vegas, to kick off the final leg of his reelection campaign. Inside the Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the president was greeted by a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters, and a stage full of Republican governors who happened to have been meeting in Las Vegas.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: It wasn't very hard to get the governors to come to Vegas... (laughter) ...to begin a road trip. The next two days, they're going to travel our country to tell people that leadership matters. (Cheers and applause)
They're going to tell the people that the best way to make sure America has strong and steady and principled leadership is to put Dick Cheney and me back into office. (Cheers and applause)
TOM BEARDEN: As soon as he had finished with his opening remarks, the president launched into a broad attack against his opponent, John Kerry.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Our very different records are a window into what we believe and what we'll do in the next four years. The senator believes in a bigger government. I believe in more freedom and choices for our citizens. (Cheers and applause) The senator believes government should dictate. I believe you should make the decisions. (Cheers and applause) On issue after issue, from Medicare without choices, to schools with less accountability, to higher taxes, he takes the side of more centralized control and more bureaucracy.
There's a word for that attitude. It's called liberalism. (Cheers and applause) Now, he dismisses that as a label; must have seen it differently when he said to a newspaper, "I'm a liberal and proud of it." (Laughter) Others have noticed.
The nonpartisan National Journal Magazine did a study and named him the most liberal member of the United States Senate, and that's saying something. ( Laughter ) another group known as the Americans for Democratic Action have given Sen. Kerry a higher lifetime liberal rating than Sen. Ted Kennedy. And that's an accomplishment. (Laughter )
TOM BEARDEN: Labeling Kerry a liberal is something the president has done increasingly on the campaign trail, and did so during last night's debate, in an exchange over tax policy.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You voted to increase taxes 98 times. When they voted to... when they proposed reducing taxes, you voted against it 126 times. He voted to violate the budget caps 277 times.
You know, there's a mainstream in American politics, and you sit right on the far left bank. As a matter of fact, your record is such that Ted Kennedy, your colleague, is the conservative senator from Massachusetts.
TOM BEARDEN: John Kerry also traveled to Las Vegas today, where he got a warm reception from the AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, holding its national meeting there.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: When I got in last night, I was driving into town, and I saw one of those tote boards with the chrikty chrikty click as the numbers go checking off.
I asked my coordinator if that was the mega slot machine jackpot. He said, no, that's the Bush gasoline prices that are going up.
TOM BEARDEN: Those were Sen. Kerry's opening remarks, and he used them to set up a lengthy critique of President Bush's efforts on behalf of working families.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: George Bush had four years to years to face this truth and to do something about it, anything, do anything about it, to make life better for hard-working families in America. But instead of seizing the moment, I believe he has squandered the opportunity, and then he has spent his entire campaign trying make us believe the unbelievable -- jobs got shipped overseas and the Bush White House told us that's really good for America.
Just the other day, the president's treasury secretary, his top economic adviser, went to Ohio where they've lost 235,000 jobs, and he says that the 1.6 million jobs lost in the private sector is just a myth. Mr. President, the millions of Americans who have lost jobs on your watch are not a myth. They are our neighbors. They are American citizens.
They're our friends and families, and for four years, you've turned your back on them, if overtimes, for unemployment compensation, for health care, for protection and fair trade, for affordable drugs. (Applause)
TOM BEARDEN: During last night's debate, Sen. Kerry got the opportunity to endorse a specific policy change for working families when he was asked about raising the minimum wage.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Well, I'm glad you raised that question. It's long overdue time to raise the minimum wage. And America, this is one of those issues that separates the president and myself. We have fought to try to raise the minimum wage in the last years, but the Republican leadership of the House and Senate won't even let us have a vote on it. We're not allowed to vote on it. They don't want to raise the minimum wage.
The minimum wage is the lowest minimum wage value it has been in our nation in 50 years. If we raised the minimum wage, which I will do over several years, to seven dollars an hour, 9.2 million women who are trying to raise their families would earn another $3,800 a year. Now, I think that it is a matter of fundamental right that if we raise the minimum wage, 15 million Americans would be positively affected.
We'd put money into the hands of people who work hard, who obey the rules, who play for the American dream. And if we did that, we'd have more consumption ability in America, which is what we need right now in order to kick our economy into gear. I will fight tooth and nail to pass the minimum wage.
TOM BEARDEN: A CNN/USA Today/Gallup snap poll asking who did the better job last night, gave the nod to john Kerry, 52 percent to 39 percent. How the final debate affected the neck and neck presidential race could be seen with the release of new national polling as early as tomorrow.