WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) and Democratic challenger John Kerry (search) are returning to the campaign trail, both stressing their plans for the U.S. economy after avoiding overt politicking during the mourning period for former President Reagan (search).
Bush this week is highlighting his efforts to create jobs and fight terrorists. Kerry, after spending 11 days talking about national security, is trekking to New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio to talk about what he would do to increase employment in America and strengthen the middle class.
Both resumed running television ads after a one-day hiatus Friday, the day Reagan was buried. The Bush campaign said Sunday it will run an ad that cites job growth and depicts Kerry as a pessimist at heavier levels this week on national cable networks and in media markets in 19 states.
After a trip Monday to Liberty, Mo., to promote Medicare prescription drug benefits, Bush meets at the White House on Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on fighting terrorism.
The war on terrorism is the topic again on Wednesday when Bush visits MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., home of the Central Command that oversees the military in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
The president delivers an economic speech Thursday to the National Federation of Independent Business in suburban Washington. On Friday, he'll address troops at Fort Lewis, Wash., and supporters at a campaign rally in Reno, Nev.
Kerry begins the week by releasing a state-by-state report on the state of middle class America, his campaign said.
The presumptive Democratic nominee and Massachusetts senator also focuses on the economy at events Tuesday in Atlantic City, N.J., and Columbus, Ohio. On Wednesday, he holds a round-table discussion with families in Columbus.
On Thursday, Kerry will be in Detroit, talking about ways to protect homeowners and consumers from abusive mortgage and credit card lending practices. His theme in Washington on Friday will be his plan to increase the federal minimum wage, now $5.15 an hour.
Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney's schedule calls for speeches on terrorism in Orlando, Fla., on Monday and on the economy Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, and on Friday in Denver.
Ken Mehlman, Bush-Cheney campaign manager, and Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie will meet with key allies in Congress this week to talk about the campaign's focus on the economy and terrorism, campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
The campaign says TV viewers will see Bush's ad that stresses the economy twice as often this week. The spot says the president has enacted the "largest tax relief in history" and boasts of record homeownership, low inflation, low interest rates and job growth.
Recent polls suggest that voters aren't convinced that Bush is responsible for new jobs or other signs of financial recovery.
An Associated Press survey of 788 registered voters conducted last week found that while they may be gaining confidence in the economy, 57 percent said the nation had lost jobs in the last six months. That contrasts with Labor Department reports that nearly 1.2 million jobs have been added in the past six months.
The Kerry campaign says Bush is painting an overly rosy picture of the U.S. economy.
"Family budgets are getting stretched thinner and thinner," said Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. "Health care costs are going up. Tuition is going up. Gas prices are going up. The American family's pocketbook is getting tighter and tighter."