KINGMAN, Ariz. – John Kerry (search) pledged that a Democratic White House would listen and respond to financially strained families as he wound down a Southwestern train trek and steered his coast-to-coast campaign into Nevada and California.
"There's some people working two or three jobs, trying to make ends meet, put food on the table," Kerry said. "That's what this fight is about."
Kerry's campaign made this stop in Kingman along the historic Route 66 highway after five days aboard a train that cut through the Midwest into the Southwest. Kerry is challenging Bush, who plans to campaign in the state on Wednesday, for Arizona's 10 electoral votes.
Kerry was heading to Las Vegas on Tuesday for a talk about proposals to build a nuclear waste site at nearby Yucca Mountain (search).
Repeating a frequent criticism of the president's economic policies, Kerry said he would withdraw tax cuts given to the richest 2 percent of the nation and funnel more money into health care and education.
"We've got a Washington, D.C., that's running away under the control of big money, big influence, and it's all coming out of your pockets," he said. "We've got to fix this tax code. I'm going to do it in a flash. Give me a nanosecond."
As part of Kerry's populist message to the crowd, he said he knows the value of hard work and fairness, despite his own privileged upbringing and said he understands the pressures facing many families.
"They say, John, I'm working harder and harder. I work weekends. I'm working 24-7. I still can't get ahead, and I don't have time to be with my family. I don't have time to be with my kids," Kerry said.
"Twenty years ago, one breadwinner had the ability to be able to pay the mortgage and pay for college, and you could have a parent at home. That's gone."
Doug Wilson, the campaign's Arizona state director, said Kerry hopes to appeal to the state's growing Hispanic population and many Native Americans. He also hopes to make inroads among moderate Republicans and the independents moving into Arizona from places such as California.
"It's arriving as a real possibility for all Democrats," Wilson said. "The challenge for Kerry in a place like this is to get beyond the stereotypes" painted by opponents.
In Arizona, Kerry got off the train that took his two-week coast-to-coast campaign from St. Louis into the Southwest. He called it an "extraordinary" trip but also admitted the sight of some riders on Harley-Davidsons made him yearn for his own motorcycle.
The Arizona leg of the trip started near the Navajo Nation and strongly Democratic parts of the state, then moved into more GOP-leaning areas. The dramatic Grand Canyon provided Kerry a backdrop to talk about preserving the natural beauty of the nation and increasing park funding.