updated 9/28/2004 5:35:55 PM ET 2004-09-28T21:35:55

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeking to boost Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s support among women, argued on Tuesday that another term for President Bush would leave a stagnant economy.

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The New York lawmaker told a gathering of businesswomen that they were being squeezed by the rising costs of expenses such as health care and dwindling access to federal assistance or contracts.

Clinton’s pitch follows a recent poll that showed Bush leading Kerry among likely women voters, largely due to concerns about terrorism and who is best equipped to protect the nation. In the 2000 election, women favored Democrat Al Gore 54 percent to Bush’s 43 percent.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., recently said she will campaign for the president in swing states, stressing how he will protect families from terrorism.

Clinton told a meeting of Women Impacting Public Policy that they should pay close attention to what she said were dark clouds on the economic horizon.

“If you add up what is happening, all of the economic indicators, I think we are headed for stagnation at best, and I think we need to get back to economic policies that help the entire economy,” she said.

Rising operating costs in the private sector and increased U.S. borrowing from foreign banks will sap the strength of the economy and force more and more employers to make tough choices, she said.

Clinton said women have a greater stake in the economy, since they are typically the ones who do much of the consumer purchasing that drives the economy.

“If you check where we’re headed economically, it is not a rosy picture for small businesses or anyone else,” she said. “Incomes are down, but the cost of everything else is going up.”

Kerry, she said, offers “exactly what we need,” including new tax incentives and simplification of the tax code.

Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said, “It’s as if Senator Clinton is calling plays from John Kerry’s economic pessimism playbook. That type of negative rhetoric is always the result of an absence of new ideas and strong leadership.”

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