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Bush Campaigns in Midwest Swing State  - 2004-09-07

President Bush is campaigning in the important Midwest swing state of Missouri where he is attacking Democratic challenger John Kerry as indecisive in the fight against terrorism and bad for the economy.

President Bush won Missouri by just three percentage points in the last election and is campaigning hard to win again with his 21st visit to the state and a campaign bus tour through more conservative western counties.

"I think you got to get out amongst the people and give them a reason why, and that is what I am here to do today, and ask for that vote," he said. "We carried Missouri last time, and with your help, we will carry it this time."

The president told a rally at a high school sports stadium that Senator Kerry will raise taxes on the middle class to pay for more than two trillion dollars of new government spending. He also criticized the Democratic nominee for opposing changes to medical liability laws, which Mr. Bush says are pushing up health care costs.

"For 20 years, he has been one of the trial lawyer's most reliable allies in the Senate," he said. "We have a difference of opinion. He has consistently voted against legal reform that would protect workers and entrepreneurs. His fellow lawyers have responded with millions of dollars in campaign donations."

President Bush says Senator Kerry has repeatedly changed his position on the U.S. invasion of Iraq, now mirroring one of the most liberal Democrats who sought the party's nomination, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.

"When the heat got on in the Democratic primary, he declared himself the anti-war candidate," the president said. "More recently, he switched again, saying he would have voted for the war even knowing everything we know today. And he woke up yesterday morning with yet another new position. And this one is not even his own. It is that of his one-time rival, Howard Dean. He even used the same words Howard Dean did back when he supposedly disagreed with him. No matter how many times Senator Kerry flip-flops, we were right to make America safer by removing Saddam Hussein from power."

In Sedalia, Missouri the campaign held what is known as an "Ask President Bush" event, where Republican supporters have the chance to put a question to the president. Sometimes they repeat campaign themes. Sometimes they are about his favorite food. Never are they controversial.

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman says the president welcomes the support of all Americans, but must be mindful of his electoral base.

"If you have got in the state, 50,000 volunteers who are making phone calls at night and when the president comes to their community and they want to see him, I do not know that you want to say 'no'," he said. "So what we try to do is have a system by which we distribute tickets. They are available to people. And do a lot of our supporters and volunteers come to these events? Yes, that is not a bad thing. Certainly people who are likely to disrupt events we do not want to come to the events."

President Bush travels Wednesday to Florida to survey damage from Hurricane Frances. He continues campaigning Thursday and Friday in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.