WASHINGTON – President Bush rallied his Republican supporters Friday with a bus tour in a state that is key to his re-election effort, saying he will use another term in office to protect the nation from terrorists by aggressively pursuing them overseas.
"Stay on the offense. That's what this administration is going to do," Bush told a cheering crowd of 2,800 at the basketball arena of Kutztown University (search). "I will not relent in my quest to make sure that America is safe and didates tied.
"We've got a real fight on our hands," Sen. Arlen Specter (search), R-Pa., said while accompanying the president to Pennsylvania. Bush's daylong bus tour of small towns in solidly Republican parts of the state is "really an effort to stimulate the base" of GOP supporters, Specter said.
"Can a guy get a cup of coffee around here?" Bush asked inside the Home Town Diner after his campaign bus pulled over for a quick stop. Bush stayed long enough to chat with customers.
Bush said his tax relief program is working to improve the economy and added, "It's the wrong time to be raising taxes on the American people."
Joining the president on the bus tour was his daughter Jenna, who was making her first campaign outing with her father. The White House said last spring that Jenna and her twin sister, Barbara, would campaign for their father after they graduated from college.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 400,000 in Pennsylvania. Al Gore won the state by 5 percentage points in 2000. The trip marked Bush's 30th visit to the state since taking office.
Stopping in Kutztown is a smart political move for Bush because it is in three media markets, including Philadelphia, and Bush must do well in November in four counties outside Philadelphia to win the state, said G. Terry Madonna, who runs the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.
Pennsylvania has lost more than 150,000 manufacturing jobs since Bush took office, and his bus tour far from problem-plagued industrial regions will focus on the party faithful. A poll by the Pennsylvania Economy League says concern over the economy is a major issue in the state.
The economy is as crucial to the president's prospects for winning Pennsylvania as is the war in Iraq, says political science professor Melvin Kulbicki of York College in York, Pa.
"This is his base of support," Kulbicki said of the region, where an uptick in the economy, progress in Iraq and a big Republican voter turnout could bring enough support to carry the state for Bush.
Gore won Pennsylvania in 2000 by 205,000 votes and Bill Clinton twice won the state. Bush's father captured Pennsylvania in 1988 and Pennsylvania went for Ronald Reagan twice.
The state, the nation's fifth-largest Election Day prize, has 21 electoral votes.