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Bush tax cut push keeps president on the road

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Bush waves to a crowd gathered to hear him outline his economic agenda and tax cut plan in Montana on Monday  

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (CNN) -- President Bush took his case for tax cuts to Missouri and Montana on Monday.

One Bush goal in his travels is to generate public pressure on specific lawmakers -- in this case, Reps. Karen McCarthy and Dennis Moore, both Kansas City-area Democrats.

"I've had a chance to visit with Dennis in the past, and I appreciate him at least giving me a chance to make my case," Bush said.

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Meanwhile, the White House tested a new pitch, as Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer used the word "downturn" to describe the economy Monday.

The president declined to embrace that phrase, but said it was clear that the economy had slowed -- and told reporters, "We better do something about it."

Last week, Bush's targets on a trip to Maine were the state's two moderate Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins -- key swing votes in the tax-cut debate, both openly skeptical of the president's plan.

"Olympia and Susan are smart, capable women who aren't afraid to speak their mind even to the president of the United States," Bush said.

Stops in Kansas City and Billings, Montana, marked Bush's appearance in his 25th and 26th cities during just 66 days in office.

By comparison, President Clinton had visited just 11 states by this date in 1993. The trip to Montana made Bush's 20th state. A stop in Michigan, number 21, is set for Tuesday.

But the early days of the Clinton administration were more chaotic, with controversies like the battle over gays in the military overshadowing efforts to keep campaign promises.

"I think President Clinton would have liked to have traveled a lot in early '93 and reconnect with people," Washington analyst Charlie Cook said. "But the fact is, the administration was so disorganized and they were so unfocused that he didn't have the luxury of being able to travel."

Aides say Bush will keep traveling, especially as the House and Senate debate the details of tax cuts. But this is more than a state-by-state hunt for votes, Cook said.

"I would be surprised if the president's travel would affect even one single vote on the tax cut," he said. "But even having said that, I would still do it if I were him, because it's just very important for presidents to be seen as outside of Washington -- outside of the White House, interacting with people, accessible."



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