Attacking President Bush's tax-cutting efforts, two Democratic contenders for the White House in 2004 called Saturday for repealing the $1.35-trillion measure Congress passed two years ago.
A third advocated a freeze in the phased-in reductions.
Courting party activists a year before the opening of the presidential nominating season, Richard A. Gephardt, Howard Dean and John F. Kerry said Democrats must present a clear alternative to Bush if they hope to retake the White House from Republicans.
Gephardt, a congressman from Missouri, released a plan to repeal Bush's tax cut, using the money for a national health-insurance system. "That's a big idea, a bold alternative to where he is trying to take us," Gephardt said.
Dean, a former Vermont governor, said the government should take back the 2001 tax cuts. "The president's tax cuts were a mistake," he said. "They've done nothing for the economy and they went to the wrong people."
Gephardt and Dean met with key Democratic activists, while Massachusetts Sen. Kerry played host to hundreds of party faithful at a breakfast.
The three joined up for a joint appearance before about 300 activists at a sold-out fund-raiser in eastern Iowa, where all three focused their fire on Bush instead of each other.
"You had better elect a Democrat because the Republicans cannot manage money," Dean said.
"Bush's tax cuts and economic plan haven't created a single job," Gephardt said.
"My campaign is going to stand up absolutely, squarely, against Bush's policies," Kerry said.
All sounded central Democratic themes in seeking to appeal to the relative handful of party activists who will show up in January 2004 for the precinct caucuses that get the nominating season underway.