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Bush and Kerry Campaign for Midwest Votes - 2004-08-03

President Bush returned to his home state of Texas Tuesday to raise money for the Republican Party and seek the support of Roman Catholic voters. Meanwhile, Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry was campaigning in the Midwest.

President Bush raised money at a private reception in Dallas before making a speech to the largest Roman Catholic service organization in the United States.

In remarks to the annual meeting of the Knights of Columbus, Mr. Bush praised the work of faith-based organizations, and stressed his administration is on their side.

"I believe one of the most effective ways our government can help those in need is to help the charities and community groups that are doing God's work every day," he said. "That's what I believe government ought to do. I believe government needs to stand on the side of faith-based groups, not against faith-based groups, when they come to saving lives."

Roman Catholics split their votes almost evenly in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, and account for about one-fourth of the electorate.

President Bush has been courting their support, and in his speech mentioned policies in line with the thinking of church leaders, such as his strong opposition to abortion and cloning.

Mr. Bush is a Methodist, while John Kerry is a Roman Catholic. Senator Kerry has accused the president of using these kinds of emotional issues to divide the American public and energize the Republican Party's conservative base. During an appearance Tuesday in the hotly contested state of Wisconsin, he repeated that charge.

"We've got leadership that tends to try to drive a wedge between people. It picks one of the 'hot button' emotional cultural issues and drives that at you, whether or not that is the most important thing on America's mind," he said.

John Kerry will continue his post-Democratic convention campaign tour Wednesday in two states where the race for the White House is tight: Iowa and Missouri. Mr. Bush will also be campaigning in Iowa early in the day before moving on to another key Midwest state, Minnesota.