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Bush, Kerry Spar Over Economy During Campaign Appearances - 2004-03-10

President Bush and Senator John Kerry, his likely Democratic opponent in this year's election, are attacking each other over the economy. Mr. Bush was campaigning in Ohio, where unemployment is above the national average.

President Bush narrowly won Ohio in the 2000 election and has made winning there again a big part of his re-election strategy.

On his 15th visit to the state as president, Mr. Bush told women business leaders that he understands the economic challenges in a state where more than 160,000 people have lost their jobs since he took office.

"I know there are workers here concerned about their jobs going overseas. I share that concern. I know they are wondering whether they will ever be able to find new skills necessary to fill the new jobs of the 21st century. I understand that," Mr. Bush said.

The president said he understands that manufacturing jobs in Ohio have been hit especially hard because industries are more productive and are not creating as many jobs as they used to.

But Mr. Bush said there is reason to be optimistic because inflation is low and manufacturing activity is up. Productive workers, he said, have made America the fastest growing major industrialized economy in the world.

While the U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery, job creation is still well below White House estimates. Mr. Bush said his record tax cuts are helping improve job growth by leaving businesses more money to hire new workers.

The president's likely Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, wants to repeal those tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to reduce the federal deficit and boost spending on social programs.

"By rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, we can start to restore fiscal responsibility, invest in education and health care for all of our people," he said.

Senator Kerry told union leaders meeting in Florida, via teleconference, that the president's tax cuts benefit only the wealthy while doing little to stop the loss of U.S. jobs overseas.

"If this president wants to make this election about taxes, after he's cut billions for billionaires and given middle class families a larger share to pay, then, as he's heard me say many times in this race, we're ready for that fight. Bring that one on, too," he said.

Without mentioning Senator Kerry by name, President Bush said some Washington politicians want to raise taxes which he said would stifle economic recovery. He again defended his tax cuts for helping all Americans and not waging what he called "class warfare" by discriminating against the wealthy.

"The tax relief I signed left money in the pockets of families and job creators at just the right time. We cut the taxes on our families. We lowered tax rates on everybody who pays taxes. We didn't pay the old political game of winners and losers in the tax code," he said.

President Bush clinched his party's nomination by winning Republican primaries in four southern states Tuesday. Senator Kerry is close to securing the Democratic nomination and could have enough delegates following next week's primary in the Midwest state of Illinois.