Bush, Kerry stump for votes in Ohio

Two candidates campaign 25 miles apart in morning

economy a focus for both

Election 2004

The Race For President

September 05, 2004|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio - President Bush and Democrat John Kerry descended on the Rust Belt yesterday, stumping for votes in the swing state of Ohio as Kerry unleashed fresh criticism on Bush's economic record, saying that the president has turned his back on seniors and workers.

At a morning rally in Akron, 25 miles south of where Bush was speaking in a packed high school gymnasium in this Cleveland suburb, Kerry seized on the government's announcement Friday that Medicare premiums for doctor visits will rise by 17 percent next year.

"Who are they going to send the bill to?" Kerry asked. "Are they going to send the bill to Halliburton? Are they going to send the bill to Ken Lay and Enron? You bet they're not. They're going to send the bill to our senior citizens."

In announcing the Medicare premium, which is set annually by a formula written into law by Congress, administration officials said higher health care costs and better benefits and more access to doctors under Medicare caused the increase.

Creation of jobs

While visiting this manufacturing state, Kerry also accused Bush of having failed to create enough jobs. He pointed to government figures showing that slightly fewer jobs were created in August than economists had predicted. The senator also said the net loss of jobs under Bush's watch will likely make him the first president in nearly eight decades to have lost jobs over a four-year term.

"They can't come here to Akron or to any other place in America and talk to you about all the jobs that they created, because they haven't," Kerry said.

The president's assessment of the economy was far rosier. "When you're out gathering people up to vote, just tell them the facts," he said. "The country has gone through a recession, went through corporate scandals which affected the confidence of our economy ... and we endured a terrorist attack. And that attack hurt our economy. In other words, there was great obstacles to growth, yet we're overcoming those obstacles today."

Mindful that Kerry's attacks could resonate in a state where the economy is struggling, Bush was careful to convey to Ohioans that he empathizes with people still feeling a squeeze or struggling to find work.

"I understand there's places in America ... that lag behind the national growth rate," he said. "Ohio has got pockets of unemployment that are unacceptable."

The president said that his record on the economy is one of creating jobs steadily for months and one that has delivered tax relief to individuals and small businesses, spurring growth. He said he is convinced that his opponent, if elected, would raise taxes.

"But he's not going to be taxing anyone in '05," Bush declared to deafening cheers. "Because we're gonna win!"

Bush was buoyed by several new polls that show him enjoying a postconvention lead.

Voinovich speaks

As he spoke to the crowd here before the president, Ohio Sen. George V. Voinovich, a Republican, said his party picked the right location for its convention. At the gala, Bush and many other speakers recalled the pain of Sept. 11, 2001, and spoke of how it shaped Bush's first term.

"It's good we had the convention in New York," said Voinovich. "That's where the war on terror started."

John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University who focuses on war and public opinion, said that as the rate of American casualties in Iraq has slowed in recent weeks, Bush has successfully turned voters' attention to the broader war on terrorism. He said that Americans have shown "declining interest" in Iraq, and that "if Bush can sell the idea that the war on terror is all that's important, he is in great shape."

Mueller added, however, that large numbers of Americans still have doubts about the justification for war, leaving an opening for Kerry. "But the senator has not leaned into Bush on Iraq as much as the anti-war wing of his party would like," he said.

Phil Singer, a Kerry spokesman, said the Massachusetts senator remains confident that many Americans are frustrated that Bush's decision to launch war "left the U.S. alone in the world." Singer added: "This issue is not going away."

With the fall campaign having officially begun with Bush's acceptance speech, the candidates are keeping to frenetic schedules. Bush was traveling by bus from the Cleveland area, along the Ohio lakeshore and back into the swing state of Pennsylvania. He will be in the swing state of West Virginia today and in the battleground state of Missouri for Labor Day.

Following a similar path, Kerry was heading from Ohio to Pennsylvania to West Virginia for Labor Day and back to Ohio.

The proximity of the candidates yesterday morning underscored just how small the landscape is in the country that the candidates see as up for grabs. In a nation encompassing 3.5 million square miles, the candidates were separated yesterday by a few exits on Interstate 77.

Kevin Madden, a Bush campaign spokesman, said to expect plenty more visits by Bush to Ohio, a state he has visited two dozen times as president. Madden said the campaign's approach to winning Ohio is to "show up early and stay late."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.