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Springsteen joins Kerry in Midwest

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry will bring some star power on stage with him Thursday when rocker Bruce Springsteen joins the Democratic candidate at college campuses in Columbus, Ohio, and Madison, Wisconsin.

Springsteen's song "No Surrender" has been blasted over loudspeakers at Kerry-Edwards rallies and is set to feature prominently this week as Kerry speaks to blue-collar voters in swing states in the Midwest.

Kerry will start the morning in Toledo, Ohio, before stopping in Madison and Columbus and finishing his day in Florida.

On Wednesday, Kerry continued his criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the report that 380 tons of high explosives were missing in Iraq.

He said President Bush was trying to "dodge and bob and weave" to avoid taking responsibility for what he called "a growing scandal."

Kerry said Vice President Dick Cheney "is becoming the chief minister of disinformation" and was criticizing people for even discussing the situation.

Bush mentioned the report in a speech in Lititz, Pennsylvania, accusing Kerry of ''making wild charges" when the facts were not in.

"This investigation is important and it's ongoing, and a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief," Bush said.

From Sioux City, the Democratic candidate headed to Rochester, Minnesota. After that were scheduled stops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Ohio.

His running mate, Sen. John Edwards, was in Florida for early voting events before rejoining the campaign trail in Minnesota. (Showdown states: Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, Florida)

Kerry said Bush had failed as commander in chief and "has failed middle-class families with almost every choice he's made."

Kerry accused Bush or rewarding companies that shifted jobs overseas, allowing HMOs and drug companies to make huge windfall profits and raiding the Social Security trust fund to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Tuesday, Kerry blasted what he called Bush's failed policies that favored tax cuts over strengthening homeland security.

Speaking to a cheering crowd in New Mexico, Kerry said he intends "to be a president who fights the war on terror, defends the country, but who also knows how to fight for the middle class in America and the people struggling to get into it." (Showdown state New Mexico)

Earlier Tuesday, appearing before an audience at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, Kerry said America's security has paid the price for the president's decisions. (Showdown state Wisconsin)

"Three years after the deadliest attack in our nation's history, George Bush still hasn't done what's necessary to protect America because he's too busy protecting his tax cuts for the wealthy and the well-connected," Kerry said.

He charged that despite warnings about vulnerabilities from the FBI, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security, Bush has not taken action.

"We don't need a president who thinks we can't afford to fund homeland security. We need a president who believes we can't afford not to. And that is the kind of president I pledge to you I will be," the candidate said to applause.

He accused Bush of choosing "$89 billion in tax cuts he gave to folks making more than $1.2 million a year" over expensive measures needed to secure the country's chemical plants, borders, shipping containers and public transportation.

He also charged that Bush has allowed the jobs of thousands of airport security screeners to be cut and has failed to prepare hospitals for bioterror attacks.

"It's not enough to talk tough and not have a tough policy," he said. "That's wrong, and we're going to change it."

The Massachusetts senator pledged to invest $60 billion over the next 10 years to protect the country by securing the nation's ports and borders, its transportation systems, and its chemical and nuclear plants.

He also promised to give the country's first responders -- firefighters and police officers -- the tools and manpower they need to do their jobs.

"We have a lot of catching up to do, and we need to begin now," Kerry said. "We have to fix the problems and close the gaps that George Bush has left in our homeland security. We have to build an America that is safer and stronger."

Kerry has made several visits to the battleground state of Wisconsin, a state narrowly won by Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in the 2000 election.

On Thursday, singer Bruce Springsteen is to appear with Kerry in Madison, Wisconsin, and Columbus, Ohio, campaign spokesman Mike McCurry said. Springsteen may also appear with the candidate Monday.

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