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Bush Follows Up on Themes in State of the Union Address - 2004-01-21


President Bush is following up on the themes of his State of the Union address with stops in states key to his re-election bid. The focus was on the economy.

President Bush is not officially a candidate for re-election yet. But as he travels the country pushing his policies and proposals, he is hitting hard on issues important to American voters.

In Ohio, for example, a major concern is the loss of manufacturing jobs in recent years. The state's unemployment rate has jumped from 3.9 percent to 5.7 since Mr. Bush took office in 2001.

The president acknowledged the problem and promised help. "I fully recognize, in Ohio there are still troubled times. The manufacturing sector here is sluggish at best and, therefore, people are looking for work. People who could rely upon a steady job in the manufacturing sector are hoping to be able to realize their hopes by finding work elsewhere," he said.

The key, said Mr. Bush, is job retraining that enables laid-off workers to return to the labor force. He said the plan he spelled out in his State of the Union address will provide local community-based and funded colleges with extra money specifically for programs that teach the unemployed new skills and match them up with a potential employer. "What I'm telling you is we're focusing on people who can achieve the great promise of our country. We're not going to quit on anybody," he said.

The president spoke at a meeting with students and faculty at a community college near Toledo, Ohio, with a similar event planned for later in the day not far from Phoenix, Arizona.

Democrats have complained that his plans to create more jobs are meager. They point to the lagging employment figures in the manufacturing sector as an indication the president's economic policies have brought about, at best, a troubled recovery.

A new public opinion survey by The Washington Post and the ABC broadcast network indicates many Americans are dissatisfied with the president's handling of domestic issues. But his personal popularity ratings remain fairly high, and approval of his national security policy continues to be strong. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they approved of the way he is waging war on terrorism, an issue Mr. Bush will address Thursday during an appearance in the state of New Mexico.

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