Bush campaigns in Penn., Wis. and Ohio

On the convention's momentum, president emphasizes economy

Election 2004

September 04, 2004|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

MOOSIC, Pa. - Blazing a trail from Manhattan to Moosic, President Bush scarcely lingered after the confetti fell on his party's convention, flying immediately out of the Democratic stronghold of New York and back into some of the swing states, whose voters will likely decide the election.

His first stop yesterday was a minor league baseball stadium in this small town in northeastern Pennsylvania, where thousands of supporters began crowding the infield before 6 a.m.

"I appreciate so many people getting up so early," the president said after bounding up to the podium, throwing high-fives and displaying momentum coming out of his party's convention in Madison Square Garden. When a man in the crowd yelled, "I can't hear you," the president replied: "Maybe it's because I talked too much last night, you know? I enjoyed giving that speech."

Stumping in the manufacturing states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Bush emphasized figures released yesterday that showed a faster pace of job creation in August and a slight drop in the nation's unemployment rate.

"Our growing economy is spreading prosperity and opportunity, and nothing will hold us back," the president said.

Democrats took a sharply different stance toward the figures, saying job creation remains weak and charging that the figures provide more evidence that Bush will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net job loss.

In states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and in Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia, which have been struck by economic hardship, voters' perceptions of whether the economy has significantly improved will heavily influence the election.

As Bush spoke in Moosic, a national Democratic ad running on local television showed Bush emphasizing a steady economy, juxtaposed with images of a dark and vacant factory.

The president told the crowd in Moosic that he needs help in winning a state that he lost to Al Gore in 2000 by 5 percentage points.

`Down the stretch'

"We are coming down the stretch in this race," he said. "It is a time for choosing. It's going to come down to the records we've built, the convictions we hold and the vision that guides us forward."

Later in the day, the Bush campaign enjoyed a fresh dose of good news from a new poll of likely voters conducted for Time magazine. The poll, taken during the Republican convention this week, found that the president has opened a double-digit lead nationally over Kerry - with 52 percent backing Bush, 41 percent Kerry and 3 percent Ralph Nader.

Polls taken during a national convention, though, tend to reflect the public's focus on the party holding the convention.

After his speech in New York on Thursday night, the president was eager to dive back into the thick of the campaign and wanted to be in a swing state when the sun came up. To that end, he spent the night at a hotel in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., just across the road from a car dealership - and rather less luxurious than the suite he left behind at New York's Waldorf-Astoria.

Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, told the Associated Press that Bush was determined "to come blowing out of the convention and get out there quickly to the country."

Battleground states

Pennsylvania is one of 17 states the White House has targeted as battlegrounds this fall; John Kerry has a nearly identical list. Neither candidate is expected to spend much time away from those states during the final eight-week push to Election Day

Bush flew from Moosic to Milwaukee, then on to a rally in Iowa. He finished his frenetic day in Cleveland, where he is to set off this morning on a bus tour that will take him across Ohio and back into Pennsylvania.

Appearing in Milwaukee, Bush stood before a sea of people wearing red T-shirts that read, "Firefighter." It seemed to be the president's answer to Kerry, who received the endorsement of the nation's largest firefighters union and has often attracted firefighters to his events.

In Democratic-leaning Wisconsin, Bush reached out to those who may not have supported him before.

"This campaign welcomes all Democrats and independents," he said. "Our vision includes everybody. Our message is for every single citizen in this country."

All day, Bush rode on the themes of his convention speech, talking much about his ideas to give workers more control of their pensions and health insurance, and about how he believes Kerry will raise taxes.

"My opponent is running to expand government," he said in Milwaukee. "I'm running to expand opportunity."

Bush tried to turn Wisconsin residents against his opponent by raising the local issue that many of them care about most passionately: football. He tried to show off his knowledge of the Green Bay Packers, who draw raucous fans wearing their cheese wedges on their heads.

"It is traditional when politicians come to your state that they talk about the Packers," Bush said. "I understand my opponent did it the other day, and he even mentioned the legendary stadium in Green Bay."

Then, eager for a laugh, the president pushed his mockery of Kerry into the realm of hypothetical: "Listen, I got some advice for him: If someone offers you a cheese head, don't say you want some wine. Just put it on your head and take a seat at Lambeau Field."

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