WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush charges into the final run-up to the Republican National Convention with a heavy campaign schedule in key states he needs to carry in November.
In a six-day tour of battleground states, Bush's travels, starting Friday in Miami, demonstrate his ambition to reach beyond his conservative base and appeal to undecided voters.
Bush is advancing the argument the country will be safer with him in charge because he makes the tough decisions and sticks with them.
The president carries his message about the war in Iraq and the other big issue in the campaign, the economy, to seven states before the convention. Ohio, with its spotty economic recovery, is such an important part of his re-election strategy that he is visiting it twice between now and his arrival in New York City.
The states Bush is campaigning in look like a recipe for deadlock: Bush and Democrat John Kerry are running close in Florida and West Virginia, and recent polls in Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan and Iowa show the two candidates tied.
Bush is driving home his arguments by resorting to star power, letting Republican luminaries such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain do some of his talking for him.
On terrorism, ``We can't change our mind this day and the next day and the day after,'' Giuliani, the man inextricably linked to New York's recovery from the Sept. 11 attacks, said Thursday. ``The leadership of this president has truly been a blessing.'' He introduced Bush at three campaign stops in New Mexico.
Bush is happy for the help from high-profile figures who can draw a crowd.
``Thank you all for coming. Gosh, I appreciate so many coming out to say hello to Rudy,'' the president said to laughter from a crowd in Albuquerque.
Among the qualities he emphasizes about himself, Bush most often mentions decisiveness.
``The president has to make hard decisions,'' Bush said when asked by USA Today how the impending toll of the 1,000th U.S. fatality in Iraq will affect his campaign.
``My job is to confront problems, not pass them on,'' he added. The president told the newspaper he believes voters won't deny him a second term even if they disagree with the war.
In a separate interview with The New York Times, Bush said for the first time that he made a ``miscalculation of what the conditions would be'' after U.S. troops went to Iraq. The insurgency, he maintained, was the unintended result of a ``swift victory'' that led to Iraqi troops disappearing into the cities and mounting a rebellion.
On Saturday, Bush will make the third bus tour of his campaign in Ohio, visiting Troy, Lima and the Toledo-Maumee area. On Wednesday, Bush will rally supporters in Columbus, Ohio, before heading East for New York.
The president goes to a rally Sunday in Wheeling, W.Va.; on Monday is in Nashua, N.H., and then flies to Michigan for an event in Detroit; and Tuesday addresses the American Legion in Nashville, Tenn., before heading for Alleman, Iowa, where McCain will join him, after a convention address by the senator the night before.
Following his convention speech Thursday night, Bush is bolting for the campaign trail. His campaign has yet to announce his post-convention schedule.
During the campaign blitz of the next six days, new policy pronouncements will have to wait until the convention and beyond.
As for Bush's convention speech, ``I think we'll have real news,'' says White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who wouldn't give up any details.
Bush worked on the speech at his ranch in Texas this week. The speech is in the editing stage.