BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – President Bush (search) said Saturday he was confident in the integrity of ballot-counting systems throughout the country, but his campaign manager said GOP lawyers stood ready to "to make sure all eligible voters can vote" four years after the Florida recount.
"We learned some lessons in the last campaign that we've got to be -- that we needed election reforms," Bush said at a question-and-answer session with supporters in Ohio (search). A law was passed "to encourage good, honest elections and to make sure that the registrations are good and honest, to make sure that every ballot is counted."
The president's remarks were in response to a question about counting military ballots, a major point of contention in the 2000 recount. Election officials rejected hundreds of military absentee ballots, many because they lacked postmarks or signatures.
"I'm confident that there will be a greater awareness when it comes to counting these ballots," Bush said.
With thousands more troops overseas because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military voting could be an even bigger issue this year, and Bush has courted this constituency aggressively.
One of the legal fights during the 2000 recount was about overseas votes.
"Certainly we intend to make sure we have the appropriate lawyers and others to make sure that all eligible voters can vote," Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said.
Mehlman, a lawyer, was field director during the 2000 recount in Florida, overseeing all the GOP ballot-counters. Bush won the state's 27 electoral votes when the Supreme Court ordered an end to recounts.
When asked about whether he'd consider a flat tax as part of his proposal to revamp the tax code, Bush said:
"I'm not going to prejudge the outcome. It's certainly one option. I've been asked in a variety of venues, do you favor the sales tax, do you favor the flat tax. What I'm in favor of is changing the tax code to make it easier to understand and more simple.
"I think by simplifying the code, we will encourage economic growth. A complex code that is hard to understand and requires enormous amounts of paperwork and time and lawyers and accountants is really counter-productive to economic growth."
Bush rolled across northeast Ohio on his fourth bus tour of the state, with another planned next week. From Ohio, Bush traveled to Pennsylvania for a second day, part of a drive into places where he performed poorly in 2000.
His campaign bus was emblazoned with a new slogan, echoing the motto of the GOP convention: "A safer world, a more hopeful America."
Bush spent the night in Cleveland, convenient to the airport, but drove 15 miles south to rally supporters. His campaign considers the suburbs more fertile ground for his message.
Democrat John Kerry's (search) campaign spokesman, Phil Singer, said Bush avoided stumping in Cleveland to avoid having to explain new government figures that show the Lake Erie city had the highest poverty rate among big cities last year.
Bush's camp was buoyed by new polls that showed him with a double-digit lead over Kerry, though Mehlman cautioned that the surveys are not likely to firm up until next week.
Bush seemed upbeat as he mingled with supporters at an ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, but he struck a cautious tone when asked about the polls.
"I've got a lot of work to do," Bush said.