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Bush Returns to Hurricane-Ravaged Florida - 2004-09-19

President Bush is offering moral support and financial aid to states hard hit by the latest hurricane to strike the United States. He spent Sunday getting a first-hand look at the storm damage.

Hurricane Ivan created havoc along the East Coast. But two states, Florida and Alabama, felt its full fury.

President Bush got a look at homes left in ruins, and met with residents still assessing the scope of the damage.

He walked on deserted beaches near uninhabitable houses and apartment buildings, before stopping to talk to aid workers. The president praised their work, and promised the hurricane victims that assistance is on the way. "Most of all, I want to tell the citizens of this part of the world that we are praying for you, that we will get help out here as quickly as we can, and that we ask God's blessings on you and your family," he said.

It was the president's third trip to storm-ravaged communities in Florida in just over a month. Florida was crucial to his election victory in 2000, and remains an important state in the current race for the White House.

With less than two months to go until Election Day, many public opinion polls show President Bush in the lead. In Sunday's New York Times newspaper several leading Democratic strategists urged the party's candidate, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, to talk tougher and be bolder.

But Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe, appearing on CNN's Late Edition program, said he is not worried. "We're leading among the persuadable swing voters. So, I am very comfortable about where we are. We have, as you know, about 44 days to go until the election," he said.

The focus of the presidential campaign will be in New York on Monday. Senator Kerry will deliver a morning address on foreign policy and attend a mid-day event, sponsored by a popular women's magazine Redbook.

The president will arrive in New York in the late afternoon in preparation for a speech Tuesday to the United Nations. Both campaigns will hold fundraising events in the city on Monday evening.