FRIDLEY, Minn. – In a state he narrowly lost in 2000, President Bush said Thursday the new tax cuts (search) he supports will "put wind at our back" and boost the lagging economy that is on the minds of many would-be voters.
Democrats seeking to bump Bush from the White House hope he will be vulnerable on the economy during next year's presidential race. Even as he begins raising money for his bid for a second White House term, Thursday's speech in Minnesota was Bush's third this week devoted to the politically crucial issue of his administration's efforts on the economy.
Bush spoke the day before several of the Democratic presidential candidates appear about 20 miles down the road at the annual summer meeting of party leaders in St. Paul.
Some economic news was released Thursday that offered hope of better days, as new unemployment claims dropped for the second straight week and a key measure of future economic activity rose in May.
Bush did not propose any new tonic for the economy, but touted the huge tax cuts as beneficial to the nation.
"The more money people have in their pocket, the more likely this economy is going to grow," he said. "That package is going to be good for a lot of folks. I believe it's going to put wind at our back."
After a round-table with local business owners and workers and a tour of the Micro Control Co., (search) which builds testing equipment for computer server chips, he focused on the new cuts meant to give small businesses incentives to invest in new equipment, expand and, thus, hire new workers.
In addition to the relief for small business owners taxed at individual rates, Bush celebrated the new ability of small businesses to immediately write off $100,000 in new equipment purchases and for all businesses to write off half their investments this year.
Bush used company president Harold Hamilton as an example.
"The tax relief plan has encouraged Harold and his wife to make additional investment, which is good for the economy," he said.
As has become typical for Bush travels, Hamilton is a frequent contributor to Republican campaigns.
Bush had promoted the same cuts earlier in the week, during an appearance in Elizabeth, N.J. He also talked about his administration's worker-training efforts Tuesday in Annandale, Va.
The president made no mention of the debate over whether weapons of mass destruction (search) will be found in Iraq; their alleged presence had been his main rationale for war. Nor did he promise -- as he has on other occasions until recently -- that they will be found, only briefly claiming broad benefits of the ouster of Saddam Hussein's government.
"The regime of Saddam Hussein is no more, America is more secure, the world is more peaceful and the long-suffering people of Iraq are now free," Bush said.
A small knot of anti-war protesters greeted Bush at the site -- though they were dwarfed by a neighboring crowd of U.S. troop supporters.
The trip was Bush's sixth to Minnesota, which is traditionally one of the most Democratic states in the nation but yielded a close race in 2002. Several polls showed the state a tossup in the campaign's closing weeks, and former Vice President Al Gore beat Bush there by 57,000 votes.