Kerry hits Midwest states, firing at Bush's economic record

Friday, October 15th 2004, 6:38 am
By: News On 6

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ John Kerry's telling voters that President Bush's record on jobs and taxes have helped special interests, not their interests, as he launches the final stretch of his presidential campaign with running mate John Edwards.

Kerry prepared to deliver the first in a series of speeches that aides describe as the campaign's ``closing arguments'' in Milwaukee, the first stop of a daylong drive through Wisconsin.

``We know that the strength of our economy isn't just about how many jobs we've gained or lost,'' Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery Friday. ``It's also about whether those jobs lift up our families. It's about whether our incomes are rising or falling.''

Kerry portrayed the president as out of touch with the everyday challenges facing families.

``George Bush has had four years to do something _ anything _ to create an economy where hard working Americans can live out their dreams,'' Kerry said. ``The problem is, this president just doesn't understand what's happened to our economy.''

Bush has defended his economic record, saying that repeated tax cuts energized growth and helped create 1.78 million new jobs after the economy sustained terrorist attacks, a sustained stock market slide and a recession.

Wisconsin's unemployment rate runs below the national average, and the state's voters haven't seen the severe job losses afflicting other Midwestern battlegrounds. Bush has a slight lead in the state, which Democrat Al Gore won narrowly four years ago.

Kerry opened the last, frenzied days of campaigning by hitting Bush on record budget deficits, the minimum wage and health care at a chilly, late night rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

He answered Bush's frequent line of attack against Kerry, that he can run but he can't hide from a liberal record, by quoting boxer Muhammad Ali's quip to George Foreman.

``George, is that all you've got?'' Kerry said.

``After four years of falling wages, losing jobs, losing health care, is that all you've got, Mr. President?''

He said the Democrats would ``go to work every day and put this country on a track where the middle class has a champion in the White House, not the privileged, not the powerful, but the middle class that builds this country and makes it strong.''

Some of the thousands who turned out to hear Kerry and Edwards brought brooms to signify Kerry's ``sweep'' of the debates. The crowd was dotted with ``3-4-3'' signs declaring Kerry the victor of all three face-to-face battles with Bush.