FORT SMITH, Ark. – In his second Arkansas visit in less than two weeks, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) on Tuesday lamented lost jobs and ineffective tax cuts that he laid at the door of the Bush administration.
The North Carolina senator promised that he and John Kerry (search) would create new jobs.
"And we will have a trade policy that works for American workers because American workers can compete with anyone, anywhere, given the chance," Edwards told about 175 people at a town hall-style meeting at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. It was his second visit to the state in 13 days.
Gov. Mike Huckabee, director of President Bush's re-election effort in the state, where Bush won in 2000, told The Associated Press that Kerry would fare better in Arkansas if he didn't spread his message widely.
"Arkansans don't know much about (Kerry), and when they do they will see how far he is from where Arkansans are," Huckabee said in an interview. "The best bet is to keep John Kerry from being known to most Arkansans."
In a statement later, Huckabee said Democrats weren't offering voters a reason to keep Bush from winning Arkansas, which offers six of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.
"He still hasn't explained why he thinks Arkansans should vote for the most liberal ticket since George McGovern was the Democrat nominee," the governor said.
In an apparent response to Republican critics who have said Edwards has the accent but not the values of most Southerners, Edwards told the crowd he shares more than an accent with them.
"We share the same values," he said. "John Kerry and I believe in Friday night football and Sunday church."
Arkansas was considered a battleground state at the start of the year, but a recent AP analysis showed it leaning toward Bush. In July, Kerry pulled his ads in Arkansas and reduced spending in other Southern states to meet needs elsewhere. He stopped all advertising in August to save money for the fall.
Kerry also has made fewer trips to Arkansas than the other candidates. Vice President Dick Cheney visited Fort Smith and Hot Springs two weeks ago, a day before Edwards' trip to North Little Rock. Bush has visited three times this year.
"We're considered a `critical must-win' state for the president," Huckabee said.
Edwards, who didn't mention former President Clinton, the state's most famous Democrat during his 30-minute appearance, said the Democratic ticket also will oppose changes to overtime laws and offer tax breaks to encourage companies not to send jobs overseas.