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Bush Campaigns in Florida - 2004-10-19

President Bush is campaigning in the southern state of Florida, where public opinion polls show him in a statistical tie with Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry. White House correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the president's bus tour through a state considered critical to the election hopes of both presidential candidates.

Of the three big states still up for grabs in this election, Florida is the biggest.

So President Bush has spent three of the last four days here, campaigning alongside his brother, who is Florida's governor. Governor Jeb Bush says voters will return the president to office, in part, because of federal help for the state which is recovering from recent hurricanes.

"And Florida will repay your hard work, your advocacy for this state, with a great election victory on November 2nd. With that, I give you my brother, and a great president of the United States, George W. Bush," he said.

Unlike the other big swing states - Pennsylvania and Ohio - Florida has early voting, which means anyone registered can vote anytime between now and Election Day. At a humid baseball stadium filled with flag-waving Republicans, President Bush urged them to get out and vote now.

"We're going to travel your state today and we will be back quite often asking the people of Florida for their vote," he said. "I'm also here to ask for your help. See you can vote now in Florida. So get your friends and neighbors to do their duty. We have a duty in this country to vote. And remind them when you get them headed to the polls if they want a safer America, a stronger America, and a better America to put me and Dick Cheney back in office."

Making American safer remains the centerpiece of the president's campaign, and he is stepping-up his rhetoric against Senator Kerry on the issue, saying the Democrat lacks the decisive leadership needed to win the fight against terrorism.

"Instead of articulating a vision or positive agenda for the future, the senator is relying on a litany of complaints and old-style scare tactics," he said. "As proven by his record and a series of contradictions in this campaign, my opponent will say anything he thinks that will benefit him politically at the time."

The president is portraying Senator Kerry as a tax-and-spend Liberal who is outside the mainstream of American politics, while Mr. Bush says his own record on more conservative social issues shows that he is on the side of American families.

As both parties move to secure their electoral base in the final weeks of the race, the Bush campaign has brought back a staple of the 2000 contest: Country Western singer Lee Greenwood and the unabashed patriotism of his ballad Proud to be an American.