Trip No. 30 for the president to Pennsylvania as he campaigns by bus in toss-up state

Friday, July 9th 2004, 8:15 am
By: News On 6

Playing to his strength, President Bush is campaigning in the small-town Republican heart of Pennsylvania, trying to win a state that Democratic presidential candidates have captured in each of the last three elections.

Bush is taking a bus tour in a battleground state that has drawn more personal attention from the president than any other. He has averaged a trip a month to Pennsylvania this year and Friday's visit was to be the 30th of his presidency to the state.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 400,000 in Pennsylvania and Al Gore won the state by 5 percentage points in 2000, yet Bush and Democrat John Kerry are tied, the latest polls show.

His campaigning is aimed at turning out supporters from the heavily Republican center of the state to offset Democratic votes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

In his first stop Friday, Bush addresses the war on terrorism and the economy in remarks to 2,800 supporters on a college campus in Kutztown, Pa., before heading by bus to the small cities of Lancaster and York.

Stopping in Kutztown is a smart political move for Bush because it is in three media markets including Philadelphia, and Bush must do well in November in four counties outside Philadelphia in order to win the state, said G. Terry Madonna, who runs the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

Pennsylvania has lost more than 150,000 manufacturing jobs since Bush took office and his bus tour far from problem-plagued industrial regions will focus on the party faithful. A poll by the Pennsylvania Economy League says concern over the economy is a major issue in the state.

The economy is as crucial to the president's prospects for winning Pennsylvania as is the war in Iraq, says political science professor Melvin Kulbicki of York College in York, Pa.

``This is his base of support,'' Kulbicki said of the region, where an uptick in the economy, progress in Iraq and a big Republican voter turnout could bring enough support to carry the state for Bush.

Gore won Pennsylvania in 2000 by 205,000 votes and Bill Clinton twice won the state. Bush's father captured Pennsylvania in 1988 and Pennsylvania went for Ronald Reagan twice.

The state, the nation's fifth-largest Election Day prize, has 21 electoral votes.