Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) told Virginia labor leaders that President Bush has the worst job loss record of any president since Herbert Hoover.

"We are going to prove to America that the only person who deserves to be laid off is George W. Bush," the Massachusetts senator told the Virginia AFL-CIO (search) conference on the first of Saturday's four campaign stops across the state.

"The only jobs George Bush has created are the nine of us running for president of the United States," Kerry said, referring to the crowded field of Democrats seeking their party's presidential nomination.

During Hoover's administration, the nation plunged into the Great Depression (search).

In addition to the loss of 3.1 million American jobs since Bush took office in January 2001, Kerry cited a litany of corporate executives' excesses and contrasted them with the plight of ordinary workers whose paychecks are being consumed by exploding health care costs.

In a Kerry White House, he said, "We're not going to see corporations that desert the American worker be rewarded with government contracts, and it won't take me 2 1/2 years to believe that someone from Enron (search) belongs in jail."

Kerry has been the most frequent visitor to Virginia of any of the Democratic candidates, with at least four appearances dating to the keynote address at the state party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond in February.

Virginia could play a pivotal role in selecting a Democratic opponent to Bush because the General Assembly last year moved the state's presidential primaries up from the final Tuesday in February to Feb. 10.

No Democrat, however, has won Virginia in a general presidential election since President Lyndon Johnson (search) did it 1964.

State GOP spokesman Shawn Smith said Virginians are quite happy with the Bush's tax cuts.

"John Kerry's plan for Virginia is to raise the taxes of the more than 2.4 million taxpayers who receive relief under the president's plan," Smith said.

He said Kerry had stepped up his attacks on Bush because his Democratic rival, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, has raised more money than Kerry.

"As Howard Dean gains front-runner status, the Kerry campaign moves their views closer to Dean's. John Kerry is nothing more than Howard Dean's understudy," Smith said.

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer (search) addressed the labor convention for Dean.

He accused Bush of "presiding over the nation's greatest national security failure," on Sept. 11, 2001, and said Dean wasn't afraid to confront the president on it.

"I want somebody who can stand toe-to-toe with George Bush, knock him down and then knock him down again," Beyer said.

Beyer, a wealthy auto dealer who lost his 1997 race for governor, serves as the national finance chairman for Dean's campaign.