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Bush, Kerry cross paths in Iowa

Talk about a close race. As the battle for the heartland and its swing-state voters heats up, Sen. John Kerry and President Bush will be campaigning within a quarter-mile of each other Wednesday in Davenport, Iowa.
Kerry Campaign Continues Midwest Tour
At his economic summit in Davenport, Kerry referred to the local newspaper. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush and rival John Kerry campaigned Wednesday in the same crucially important Iowa town, with the president predicting he will win in November because his administration has improved the economy and bolstered national security.

“The other folks talk a good game. We deliver,” the president told thousands of cheering supporters on the banks of the Mississippi River in a state he narrowly lost four years ago. "This time we’re going to carry it,” Bush said.

Said Kerry at an economic summit a few blocks away: “It occurred to me that he could come here for a great discussion about America’s future if he were really willing to just turn a corner.” The Democratic nominee was poking fun at Bush’s campaign slogan, “We’ve turned the corner, and we’re not turning back.”

Bush and Kerry are in a tight race in Iowa and both candidates are going after voters in Davenport, an area that some political experts say provided Democrat Al Gore the votes he needed to defeat Bush in the state in 2000.

Bush’s campaign rally was several blocks away from where Kerry was to hear stories of manufacturing job losses in the state, which have totaled more than 26,000 since Bush took office.

Bush cited the state’s relatively low jobless rate, 4.3 percent in June, which has consistently been below the national average, which was 5.6 percent in June. He said that since his presidency began, he has opened up markets overseas for Iowa farmers and has lowered their taxes.

“I have made the success of Iowa farmers and ranchers a priority, and America is better off for it,” the president said.

Bush said his efforts in the war on terrorism, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, have “made America safer.”

Bush's fourth trip to Iowa this year
This is the president’s fourth trip to Iowa this year. Gore captured Iowa in 2000 by a little more than 4,000 votes after making a well-timed visit to Davenport a week and a half before the election. Gore won the county containing Davenport, 50.8 percent to 46.4 percent for Bush.

Iowa Republicans say they are not surprised that the incumbent president is in a dead heat with Kerry in the state.

“After what happened in 2000, with the election going to the Supreme Court, that hardened many people’s attitudes,” former Iowa state Republican chairman Michael Mahaffey said. “Democratic Party activists have been very disgruntled and they want to make sure they do everything they can to make sure that George Bush is defeated.”

Mahaffey’s view is that the “passion is more to get George Bush defeated than it is to get John Kerry elected.”

In the Mankato, Minn., area, Bush was highlighting a national program that provides incentives to landowners to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and replace it with grass, trees or wildlife habitat. The 2002 farm bill Bush signed would provide $40 billion over the next decade to restore millions of acres of wetlands, protect sensitive habitats, conserve water and improve streams and waterways near farms and ranches.

Kerry’s camp sent Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin to Minnesota to criticize Bush’s level of support for the conservation program, saying Minnesota has seen fewer acres approved for enrollment in the program.

One calculation in the president’s visit to rural Minnesota may be the overlap effect on Iowa. Mankato has a television station that broadcasts into Iowa, says political science professor Joseph Kunkel of Minnesota State University in Mankato.

The president was visiting a farm in the town of LeSueur, Minn., and a quarry in Mankato.

Bush lost Minnesota in 2000 with 45.5 percent of the vote to Gore’s 47.9 percent.

Bush’s last visit to the state was in July to Duluth, traditionally considered Democratic territory. Southern Minnesota is more reliably Republican, though Kunkel said Mankato itself is considered more Democratic.