updated 7/14/2004 11:34:10 AM ET 2004-07-14T15:34:10

President Bush told more than 5,000 cheering supporters Wednesday in the heavily Republican suburbs of Milwaukee that his conservative values in building up the nation’s defenses and instituting tax cuts are solutions to America’s problems and that Democrat John Kerry should not be allowed to derail them.

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Bush said his approaches to national security and the economy are working so well that Kerry is trying to embrace conservatism.

“He said he was the candidate of conservative values,” Bush said of Kerry’s comments on a recent trip to the Midwest.

Defending his decision to invade Iraq, Bush said, “Although we haven’t found the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction.” Saddam Hussein “could have passed that capability to terrorists,” said Bush.

Bush declared that Kerry’s embrace of the Hollywood crowd puts him out of touch with Midwest values of strength and steadfastness, qualities the president says he has exhibited as commander in chief.

In a state he lost by less than 6,000 votes four years ago, the president started his second bus tour of Wisconsin in two months in Waukesha County, where he bested Vice President Al Gore by a margin of better than 2-to-1. Bush’s 133,000 votes in Waukesha County represented more than 10 percent of his total in Wisconsin.

The 12th trip of Bush’s presidency to Wisconsin was part of two days of campaigning through three states that he lost to Democrat Al Gore four years ago. In appearances Tuesday in Marquette, Mich., and Duluth, Minn., the president defended his decision to go to war in Iraq.

Riding across the other side of Wisconsin in a bus tour two months ago, Bush highlighted his tax cuts as a key to improving the economy, lowering unemployment and creating new jobs.

Grappling with Senate panel report
Now the White House is grappling with a report from a Republican-led Senate committee that harshly criticizes unsubstantiated U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction that have not been found. The faulty intelligence laid the groundwork for sending 140,000 U.S. troops to Iraq.

“The problem is how do you continue to justify the war in Iraq and connect it to the war on terrorism rather than have it tied to weapons of mass destruction,” said University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin. “It’s a pretty bold position that the president is taking.”

Bush roundly criticized Kerry’s pronouncement that he and running mate John Edwards were proud of the fact that they opposed in the Senate the $87 billion aid package for Afghanistan and Iraq. Kerry said they had done so because “we knew the policy had to be changed.”

“Members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them, and then brag about it,” Bush said during Tuesday’s trip to Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and to Duluth, Minn., two Midwest states that Bush lost to Gore in 2000.

Edwards said in an interview aired Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show that he and Kerry trusted Bush to put in place a detailed plan for Iraq, but the president failed.

“My view was I had to stand up and say ‘No, this is not working. We have to change course,”’ Edwards said.

The president’s latest Wisconsin bus tour ends in the Green Bay area, where Kerry focused on Iraq in an appearance in May, saying that his goals would be to repair relations with allies and ensure an international force for Iraq to accelerate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

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