U.S. President George Bush says much work remains to be done in the war on terrorism and to further economic opportunity in the United States.

Speaking at a Chicago fundraising event for his re-election campaign, President Bush said he is looking forward to next year's election, but that his priority is to deal with current challenges at home and abroad. After months of near-constant focus on Iraq and the war on terrorism, Mr. Bush took time to speak about the U.S. economy, which has experienced nearly two years of sluggish growth on the heels of a recession. The president said a combination of factors has held back economic growth, but that those factors are being dealt with.

"Two and a half years ago, we inherited an economy in recession," claimed President Bush. "And then our country was attacked and we began a march to war. And we found out some of our corporate citizens forgot to tell the truth - all of which affected the confidence of our country.

"But we acted," continued Mr. Bush. "We passed tough laws to hold corporate criminals to account [for their actions]. To get the economy going, we have twice led the U.S. Congress to pass historic tax relief for the American people."

Mr. Bush said he wants a prosperous, compassionate nation where every citizen has a chance to succeed and to realize the American dream.

The President also pledged to continue to work tirelessly to protect the United States from terrorism, and to further the cause of freedom worldwide.

"It is clear that the future of freedom and peace depend on the actions of America," he said. "This nation is freedom's home, and we are freedom's defender. We welcome this charge of history, and we are keeping it.

"Our war on terror continues," repeated Mr. Bush. "The enemies of freedom - those who hate America - are not idle. And neither are we. This country will not rest, we will not tire, and we will not stop until this danger to civilization is removed."

Mr. Bush said the United States helped bring freedom to Iraq, and will stand with the Iraqi people as they move toward self-governance.

Polls show President Bush's approval ratings have slipped in recent weeks amid a persistently weak labor market and continuing questions concerning the effectiveness and duration of U.S. efforts in Iraq. One recent survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News showed that 49 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Bush's performance, while another by Gallup showed the President trailing several possible Democratic contenders for the White House, including retired General Wesley Clark and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

Yet Mr. Bush's approval ratings, while lower than they were just a few months ago, are actually higher than those of two other recent presidents, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, during the third years of their first terms in office. Both men handily won re-election during periods of vibrant economic growth.

Mr. Bush also appears to be having no difficulty raising campaign money. The Washington Post reports the president took in at least $48 million over the last three months, more than triple the amount raised by the leading Democratic candidate, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.