SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ President Bush on Wednesday claimed Democrats can't be trusted to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. ``Vote Republican for the safety of the United States,'' he said.
In an echo of the election-year charges the GOP used in 2002 and 2004, Bush accused the Democrats of being soft on terrorism and argued the nation's security is a key issue in the midterm elections.
Vice President Dick Cheney, in 2004, had said a vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry would risk another terror attack.
On his three-day, $3.6 million fundraising swing through Nevada, California, Arizona and Colorado, Bush is trying to keep the election framed around the economy and the war on terror,
But back in Washington, the partisan sniping continues over when Republican leaders in the House first learned about the conduct of former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., who sent sexually explicit messages to teenage boys who had worked as pages at the Capitol.
Republican strategists worry that the Foley scandal could keep conservatives away from the polls, but the White House said Bush is focused on getting his message out to voters.
Bush interrupted his fundraising swing in California on Tuesday to denounce Foley's conduct and support House Speaker Dennis Hastert amid calls from some conservatives for the Illinois Republican's resignation as speaker.
At a $450,000 breakfast fundraiser for Republican Rep. Rick Renzi, Bush criticized Democrats who voted against legislation allowing tough interrogation of terror suspects by CIA agents and a bill authorizing warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails to detect terror plots.
``If the people of Arizona and the people the United States don't think we ought to be listening in on the conversations of people who can do harm to the United States, then go ahead and vote for the Democrats,'' Bush said.
``If you want to make sure that those on the front line protecting you have the tools necessary to do so, you vote Republican for the safety of the United States.''
Democrats argue that Republicans have put national security at risk by their policies in Iraq and no longer have credibility with the American people.
After the morning fundraiser for Renzi, who is seeking a third term, Bush signed a bill that could bring hundreds of miles of fencing to the busiest illegal entry point on the U.S.-Mexico border.
On his way back to Washington, Bush is stopping in Englewood, Colo., to speak at a $550,000 fundraiser for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez.
At the Renzi fundraiser, Bush also said his pro-growth economic policies have helped working Americans, and called on Congress to make his administration's tax cuts permanent. ``If the other bunch gets elected,'' he said of Democrats, ``they're going to raise your taxes.''
Democrats argue that Republicans essentially are raising taxes by failing to revive popular middle-class tax breaks. A list of widely popular tax cuts expired more than nine months ago and have not yet been renewed. Among the expired provisions: Deductions for student tuition and expenses and for state and local sales taxes, intended to help residents in states that don't have an income tax.
But the loudest applause from the Republican crowd came from his remarks criticizing the Democrats on national security.
``We believe strongly that we must take action to prevent attacks from happening in the first place,'' Bush said ``They view the threats we face like law enforcement, and that is, we respond after we're attacked. And it's a fundamental difference, and I will travel this country the next five weeks making it clear the difference.''