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Bush battles for Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan


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Pres. Bush speaks Tuesday at a rally in Onalaska, Wisconsin.
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CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reports on Bush's Wisconsin tour.

The focus is now totally on the battleground states still up for grabs.

Bush campaigns on his leadership and on the war on terrorism.
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ONALASKA, Wisconsin (CNN) -- President Bush will stump in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Wednesday morning, waging battle in a state that narrowly voted for Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

Bush will head to Ohio in the afternoon, stopping in Youngstown and Findlay to try to block gains being made there by Sen. John Kerry.

He plans to end the day in Detroit, Michigan, where recent polls show him gaining on the Democratic candidate.

Vice President Dick Cheney will campaign in Florida and Pennsylvania Wednesday before he picks up where the president left off, meeting with community leaders in the Badger State.

"I'm here to ask for your vote. I'm here to ask for your help. There is no doubt in my mind if we turn out our vote in Wisconsin, we'll win a great victory on November 2nd," Bush said in Onalaska, Wisconsin, Tuesday.

Later in Richland Center, Bush tailored several remarks to Wisconsin's farming interests. He pledged to find new markets for agricultural products; subsidize dairy producers and help family farmers by eliminating the estate tax.

In both cities, Bush cited soaring medical liability insurance rates.

"Lawsuits are running up the cost of doing business. Lawsuits are running good doctors out of practice," he said. "If we're interested in the quality of life, we'd better do something about these lawsuits."

On that topic, Bush took a swipe at his opponent, Democrat Sen. John Kerry, and his vice presidential pick, Sen. John Edwards, a trial lawyer.

"You cannot be pro-doctor, pro-patient, and pro-injury trial lawyer at the same time. You have to choose in life. And my opponent made his choice. He put a personal injury trial lawyer on the ticket.

"I made my choice. I'm standing with the Wisconsin docs and patients and small business owners. I'm for medical liability reform."

In Onalaska, Bush talked about Social Security, homeland security, the economy, small businesses and Afghanistan -- and he made other pleas of support.

The president reminded his audience of a campaign ad from 2000 warning that if Bush were elected, senior citizens wouldn't receive their Social Security checks.

"Well, I want you as you're gathering up the vote, to remind your friends and neighbors that George W. did get elected and our seniors did get their Social Security checks."

Bush then plugged his proposal to partly privatize Social Security by allowing workers to set aside some of their payroll taxes in a personal savings account. The idea has been criticized by Kerry, who says it would be gambling with the next generation's retirement savings.

On homeland security, Bush stressed determination.

"We will be relentless, determined, steadfast and strong. We will not relent. We will stay on the offensive until the fight is won," Bush said.

Bush touted his record on the economy, including tax relief. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin is down to 5 percent, he said, nearly a point lower than it was in the summer of 2003. Farm income and home ownership are up, he said.

He also criticized Kerry for proposing what he said would be $2.2 trillion in new programs.

"To pay for all his new spending he's proposed, my opponent will have to raise taxes, not just on small-business owners, but on everyone who's ever worked for a small business, shopped at a small business or walked by a small business," Bush said.

On the fight against terrorism, Bush said, "freedom is on the march" and pledged to continue leading with "consistency and strength."

"You change your tactics but never change your principles," he said.

He pointed to strides made in Afghanistan after the United States ousted the Taliban regime, such as women attending school.

Bush made the comments the same day election officials announced that interim Afghanistan leader Hamid Karzai has won 55 percent of the vote in the country's first democratic election. The result, however, will not be official until an investigation into voting irregularities is complete.


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