A top official for the Bush-Cheney campaign said Sen. John Kerry cannot be trusted to lead the country in war, describing the Democratic presidential hopeful's stand on Iraq as one of "flip-flopping and retreat."
"He is not the kind of leader we want in the White House at a time of war," said Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and now southeast regional chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign.
"We are facing arguably the greatest military challenge since the end of the Cold War," Reed said in an interview before he was to give the keynote address Friday night at Nevada's state GOP convention.
"We cannot have someone in the White House who doesn't know how to lead boldly without equivocation," Reed told The Associated Press. "His record is one of vacillation, flip-flopping and retreat."
President Bush has forged a coalition in Iraq to transform "one of the most dangerous regimes in the world ... into a beacon of democratic values and human rights," Reed said.
"That transition is as painful as it is important. There are going to be good days in Iraq and bad days. But the American people believe we must finish what we started. We cannot cut and run," he said.
In response to the criticism, Kerry campaign spokesperson Laura Capps said President Bush's foreign policy has made the United States "more isolated, more vulnerable, and less secure than before."
She said Bush's economic policy has lost America nearly three million jobs and "forced over 400,000 Nevadans to live without health insurance."
"On the eve of the one year anniversary of the audacious Mission Accomplished declaration, Republican attack dog Ralph Reeds misleading charges are nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract voters from these central facts," Capps said.
"Kerry risked his life to defend his country, he is a strong supporter of America’s military, and he has laid out a clear vision to create a stable Iraq with a representative government and secure in its borders," she said.
Reed's stop in Nevada is the latest in a series of visits he has made or plans in key swing states, including Arkansas, Florida and Ohio.
Bush won Nevada's four electoral votes in 2000 with 50-percent of the vote to Al Gore's 46-percent after Bill Clinton had carried the state both elections before. Voter registration in the state currently is split almost evenly with 360,503 Republicans and 351,813 Democrats.
"Nevada is very important," Reed said Friday. "It's a state we narrowly lost in 1996. We won, but not as comfortably as we would have liked in 2000.
"In as close of race as we are in, every battle ground state matters. Add the fact Nevada added an electoral vote and we're focused on it," he said. The fifth vote was added in 2000 due to Census updates.
Reed said he's trying to emphasize "the sharp contrast in visions of the future" held by Bush and Kerry.
"President Bush's views and vision for the future match up much more closely with Nevadans than Sen. Kerry's do," he said.
"John Kerry voted 350 times for higher taxes. His entire 19 years U.S. Senate record is one of supporting massive tax increases. He is out of sync with most Nevadans and most Americans."