HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) _ President Bush said Friday that if Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry ``had his way Saddam Hussein would still be in power'' and criticized his rival's stand on the war.
Kerry voted in October 2002 to give Bush the authority to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but has criticized the president for failing to enlist more allied support and rushing to war.
Campaigning in this battleground state with Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., Bush argued that Kerry has had trouble taking a clear stand on the war, saying, ``when it comes to Iraq my opponent has more different positions than all the senators put together.''
Bush acknowledged Kerry's vote for the congressional resolution giving him the power to invade Iraq, but contrasted that with the Democrat's opposition to an $87 billion aid package for Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush also argued that Kerry's past statements that Saddam was a threat was inconsistent with more recent remarks in which he accused the Republican of making the wrong decision on Iraq and squandering money on the war.
``If he had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power and would still be a threat to our security and to the world,'' Bush told the crowd in this town on West Virginia's border with Ohio.
The Kerry campaign responded that Bush has been ``consistently wrong in the way he went about holding Saddam to account.''
Without referring to Kerry by name, Miller said Bush is ``the one man who will keep on the offensive, never wavering, never wobbling never weak in the knees.''
Miller energized the Republican crowd at the party's convention in New York last week with a fiery keynote address that assailed Kerry on national security issues, a speech Democratic critics described as pure vitriol.
``I wish my party had the same will to win this fight that this good president does,'' said Miller, who also was campaigning with Bush in Ohio. ``I want to take this opportunity to tell all my fellow Democrats wherever they may be, all the few who like me never thought about voting for a Republican a few years ago. ... George W. Bush is a Republican we can proudly support.''
Bush, obviously delighted at Miller's full-throated endorsement, said the senator is ``what I would call a discerning Democrat.''
In 1992, as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, Miller had warned about the dark days under Republicans such as Bush's father.
As the president returned to two economically struggling and politically important states, he was greeted with good news for his re-election campaign as West Virginia has moved from a tossup to leaning toward Bush. In Ohio, a CNN-USA Today-Gallup survey released this week put Bush ahead of Kerry, 52 percent to 44 percent _ a reversal from before the national political conventions.
In 2000, Bush narrowly won both states and all three areas he was to visit Friday: the county encompassing Huntington by 1,500 votes, Portsmouth by 1,000 votes, and Chillicothe by 2,000 votes.
But the economy in parts of southern Ohio is weak, which cut undercut Bush's effort to win the state.
Ohio offers 20 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. But with the race for the White House expected to remain close to the end, even states such as West Virginia, with just five electoral votes, are guaranteed plenty of attention if their voters are closely divided between the candidates. Both states are on the candidates' frequent-visitor cards.
Friday's trip will be Bush's 14th to West Virginia as president and his 25th to Ohio. Kerry has campaigned in West Virginia five times this year and 15 times in Ohio.