SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Campaigning again after sidelining himself during the Democratic National Convention, President Bush charged Friday that John Kerry lacked any “signature achievements” in his nearly 20-year Senate career.
Bush, seeking to limit Kerry’s post-convention bounce to a dribble, summed up the Democratic convention in Boston as four days of “clever speeches” and “some big promises.”
Bush answered Kerry’s “America can do better” mantra with a refrain of his own: “We have turned the corner, and we’re not turning back.” And he continued to portray the Massachusetts Democrat as a tax-and-spend politician liberal.
His line bore a striking resemblance to that of his father, George H.W. Bush, who won the presidency from another Massachusetts Democrat, Gov. Michael Dukakis, 16 years ago.
“My opponent has good intentions, but intentions do not always translate to results,” the president told a cheering crowd here that packed a baseball stadium still soggy from an earlier rain.
Bush on Friday undertook a bus and plane trip through Missouri, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania while Kerry and Sen. John Edwards, his running mate, began a two-week cross-country trip by bus, train and boat and plane. Bush will wrap up two days of campaigning with a rally Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh, just hours after Kerry speaks in a nearby suburb.
“A brand new shiny speech won’t cover up Bush’s failure to help middle-class families,” said Kerry spokesman Phil Singer. “America doesn’t need more misleading campaign slogans, we need a new president.”
Bush is calling his latest campaign drive the “Heart and Soul of America” tour, a subtle jab at Kerry, who at a Democratic fund-raiser called some of his Hollywood friends the “heart and soul” of America.
During the next two weeks, Bush will focus on his domestic agenda. He’ll talk about helping Americans adjust to a changing economy, increasing home ownership, overhauling Social Security and letting workers opt for time off as compensation, rather than overtime pay — an issue that has riled unions, Democrats and some moderate Republicans.
“I believe Congress ought to enact comp-time and flextime to help America’s families better juggle the demands of work and their home,” Bush said.
The Kerry-Edwards campaign accused the president of addressing middle class concerns just three months before the election.
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“Bush is finally talking about how to address the increasing stress families face each day trying to balance their responsibilities as parents in the face of massive job loss, stagnant wages, and the rising costs of life in Bush’s America such as health care and education,” Singer said. “After nearly four years of making things harder for American families on these key issues, Bush’s rhetoric might be changing: Why should we believe him now?”
It was a new stump speech for the president that prompted the crowd inside the stadium to give him several standing ovations. Outside the stadium, however, more than 100 demonstrators protested the president’s 20th visit to Missouri.
“I’m so frightened about what’s happening to the country,” said Joan Wagnon, 72, of Springfield. Another protester, Steve Morrow, blamed the Bush administration for the loss of his $18-an-hour job at steel plant in Kansas City, Mo.
After 31 years, he was forced to retrain for a position in heating and cooling. “I used to make a decent living, but when my plant shut down, I had to take a job that paid only $8 an hour,” Morrow said.
Grim economic markers
Bush’s remarks on the economy focused on his efforts to better educate and train tomorrow’s work force. He didn’t mention the Federal Reserve report released earlier this week that found economic conditions around the country worsened in June and early July — a signal that the economy was slowing in the early summer.
And the White House on Friday projected that this year’s deficit will hit a record $445 billion, further fueling a debate over the president’s handling of the economy. Democrats say Bush’s tax cuts and job losses worsened the outlook for the budget and the economy. Republicans noted that the deficit was less than the $521 billion deficit the administration was projecting back in February.
“When it comes to improving our economy and creating new jobs, results matter,” Bush said. “When it comes to better securing our homeland and fighting the forces of terror, results matter.”
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