updated 8/31/2004 1:41:25 PM ET 2004-08-31T17:41:25

Visiting Appalachia, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards challenged President Bush’s contention of an improving economy, arguing that the Republican’s policies have been “catastrophic for the middle class and successful for the very wealthy.”

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“President Bush has finally admitted that he miscalculated on Iraq, so will he next admit that he has miscalculated on the economy?” Edwards asked in remarks prepared for delivery in Beckley, W.Va., on Tuesday. “Will we next hear that his economic plan was a catastrophic success?”

The comments were a jab at Bush’s remarks in recent days that his administration “miscalculated” how fiercely insurgents would fight after the initial “catastrophic success” of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Edwards is filling in for presidential candidate John Kerry this week as the No. 1 on the Democratic ticket keeps a low profile while Republicans hold their nominating convention in New York.

The North Carolina senator was campaigning alongside Richard Trumka, a top official with the AFL-CIO, in a state whose recovery from the recession has been sluggish.

West Virginia is considered one of the most competitive states in the presidential race. Bush narrowly won the state and its five electoral votes by 6 percentage points in 2000 despite it historically having been Democratic territory. Later Tuesday, Edwards was headed to Pennsylvania, another crucial swing state.

Steve Schmidt, a Bush campaign spokesman, said the Kerry-Edwards campaign’s “flailing attack” has become typical.

“John Kerry’s indecision and vacillation regarding the war on terror combined with his $2 trillion in spending promises and commitment to raise taxes are just some of the reasons his out-of-the-mainstream candidacy is losing credibility with the American people,” Schmidt said.

In the remarks, Edwards accused Bush of undermining the middle class with fewer jobs, smaller paychecks and higher health care costs, and said the only thing Bush’s term has accomplished is “results for his corporate friends” while middle-class people have seen only “empty promises, fewer jobs and higher costs.”

“American families are working harder than ever before,” Edwards said, “and yet they are being squeezed like never before because of George Bush’s miscalculations.”

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