ALBUQUERQUE — Democratic Sen. John Kerry on Friday accused the Bush administration of hiding a plan to mobilize more National Guard and Reserve troops after the election while glossing over a worsening conflict in Iraq.

"He won't tell us what congressional leaders are now saying, that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and Guard units immediately after the election," Kerry said. "Hide it from people through the election, then make the move."

The White House called the allegation of a secret plan "completely irresponsible . . . false and ridiculous." The Pentagon said troop replacements would include some from National Guard and Reserve units and those expected to be sent to Iraq had been notified.

While Bush has been campaigning as the best candidate to deter terrorists and protect the nation, his presidential rival portrayed him as out of touch with a serious and dangerous situation in Iraq.

"With all due respect to the president, has he turned on the evening news lately? Does he read the newspapers?" Kerry said. "Does he really know what's happening? Is he talking about the same war that the rest of us are talking about?"

Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, top Democrat on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and a former Marine who served in Vietnam, said he had learned through conversations with Pentagon officials that beginning in November, "the Bush administration plans to call up large numbers of the military Guard and Reserves, to include plans that they previously had put off to call up the Individual Ready Reserve."

Other Democrats joined Kerry in a chorus trying to drown out Bush's message on Iraq.

"It's clear that this administration didn't know what it was getting into, or else they grossly misrepresented the facts to the American people," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "In either case, staying the course is not an option."

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, campaigning for Kerry in Pennsylvania, said that in spite of bleak national intelligence estimates on Iraq, Bush still "goes out misrepresenting and distorting the progress that's being made over there."

Kerry said the president was avoiding hard truths about casualties, new insurgencies and troop shortages. "He won't tell us that, day by day, we're running out of soldiers and that we're now resorted to a backdoor draft of our reservists and our National Guard."

The Bush campaign denied the assertion about secret plans.

"John Kerry's conspiracy theory of a secret troop deployment is completely irresponsible," said spokesman Steve Schmidt. "John Kerry didn't launch this attack when he spoke to the National Guard because he knows they know it is false and ridiculous."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said of Kerry: "He's struggling to explain his incoherent positions on Iraq. He's engaging in baseless attacks."

At the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Chris Rodney said, "There is no force increase that is expected."

The Army is on target to rotate into Iraq the same number of soldiers who will be leaving over the next six months, and all National Guard and Reserve units that are expected to be mobilized for the next rotation have been notified, the spokesman said.

Kerry's campaign also intensified its criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney and defense contractor Halliburton, the company Cheney used to lead, as an aspect of the administration's management of the war.

"Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, has profited from the mess in Iraq at the expense of American troops and taxpayers," Kerry said.

In a new television ad, which went on the air Friday in Oregon and other battleground states, the Democrat suggests that Cheney has conflicts of interest stemming from money he received from Halliburton under a deferred compensation agreement.

The ad also contends that Halliburton wasted taxpayer money, in contracts awarded without competitive bidding, that could have been better used at home. Several investigations have found evidence of overcharging or raised questions about the company's performance.

The Bush-Cheney campaign denied any conflicts of interest existed for Cheney, saying that deferred compensation agreements aren't uncommon and that the vice president has no influence on contracts awarded to his former employer.

A new radio ad running in New Hampshire and Florida says "the Saudi royal family appreciates the support" when Americans fill up their tanks at gas stations. "Who does the royal family support? George W. Bush and Dick Cheney."