Bush tells Pa. voters he shares their values

Campaigning in key state, president stresses stance on abortion and marriage

Election 2004

July 10, 2004|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

YORK, Pa. - President Bush took to the roads of central Pennsylvania in a red-white-and-blue campaign bus yesterday, stopping at a roadside diner and other hot spots in this battleground state to tell voters that he - and not his Democratic opponent - shares the values of average Americans.

Bush is a frequent visitor to this state, having now made 30 trips here as president. Yesterday, on his bus trip, the president wound his way through hard-core Republican territory.

He found friendly audiences to present his message that his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, and Kerry's new running mate, Sen. John Edwards, are not in touch with voters on such issues as abortion, gay marriage and tax cuts.

"The senator is out of step with the mainstream values so important to our country and our families," Bush said, sounding hoarse as he ended the long campaign day with a raucous rally in the city of York.

"We stand for a culture of life," the president added, "in which every person counts and reject the brutal practice of partial-birth abortion. We stand for institutions like marriage and family, which are the foundations of our society."

Bush campaign aides said the bus excursion was intended in part to excite voters in the state's Republican areas. For the president, turnout in the largely conservative center of the state could prove crucial to counterbalancing Democratic turnout in the populous cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with their many Democratic and minority voters.

Aides to Bush have long said they expect the race in Pennsylvania to be as close as it was four years ago, if not closer. In 2000, Al Gore defeated Bush in Pennsylvania by 4 percentage points.

The president also seemed determined yesterday to grab back some of the campaign spotlight from Kerry and Edwards.

In an effort to woo moderate voters, the Democratic pair has spent several days portraying Edwards as the son of a mill worker who rose from modest Southern roots and who understands issues vital to ordinary people. The president tried to paint both Edwards and Kerry as staunch liberals.

"Senator Kerry is rated as the most liberal member of the Senate," Bush said. "And he chose a fellow lawyer who is the fourth-most-liberal member of the Senate. Back in Massachusetts, that's what they call balancing the ticket."

Since Kerry placed Edwards on the ticket, the two men have been appearing at events with their children, producing the image of cheerful family guys. Seeming not to miss a step, Bush campaigned with his own daughter Jenna, a recent graduate of the University of Texas.

Aides said Bush had been planning all along to campaign with his daughters - Jenna and her twin sister, Barbara - once they finished college. Barbara Bush graduated from Yale this year.

After weeks of dealing with challenges in Iraq and watching his poll numbers slide, Bush seemed buoyant and comfortable to be on the campaign trail, away from Washington and attracting crowds to roadsides waving flags and giving the president's bus a thumbs up.

At the evening event in York, the president was introduced by Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach. The lights were dimmed in the arena just as they are before the starting lineups for professional basketball teams are introduced before a game.

Bush was shown beaming on a Jumbotron, walking through the crowd and onto the stage to the tune "Eye of the Tiger" of Rocky fame.

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