PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – President Bush (search) dropped in on one of the fall campaign's most contested states for the second Sunday in a row, telling cheering partisans that his economic policies are building prosperity while Democrat John Kerry (search) "wants to tax your jobs."
In a nod to the Labor Day holiday, Bush sprinkled throughout his stump speech several references to the importance of boosting small businesses, and tweaked his usual criticism of Kerry to reflect that focus.
The president charged that Kerry's plan to roll back Bush's tweekend, it's important for America's workers to know that my opponent wants to tax your jobs."
The Kerry campaign scoffed at Bush's attack, saying his "misleading" definition of small businesses includes anyone who receives even some income from a sole proprietorship (search), partnership or S corporation (search) -- even for renting out a vacation home -- and that most earn less than $200,000.
Kerry has said he would cut taxes for middle- and low-income earners, and offer tax credits on health care to small businesses and others.
"If voters think that giving Dick Cheney a tax cut is the best way to create jobs, they should vote for George Bush," said Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer. "But if they want a plan that cuts taxes for small business that create jobs or offer health insurance, they should vote for John Kerry."
Bush contrasted Kerry's approach with his record. He cited new employment figures showing that 1.7 million jobs overall were added to the economy since last August.
"Our economic plan is working," the president said.
He did not mention that there are 900,000 fewer jobs than when he took office in January 2001, despite promises of millions being created with his tax cuts. West Virginia has shed 11,000 manufacturing jobs on Bush's watch.
The rally here put Bush back in a state he won in 2000, but now is a closely contested battleground this election. Recent polls show West Virginia leaning toward Bush, but Democrats still see a chance to snag its five electoral votes -- a small number that both sides think could prove crucial in the neck-and-neck race.
Bush has visited West Virginia eight times just this year. It was his second visit in four months to this northwestern town, which gave the president his biggest victory margin in West Virginia. Bush will be back Friday, stopping in Huntington in the southwest part of the state.
Kerry also is competing hard. The Massachusetts senator has campaigned in West Virginia five times and was returning Monday for a Labor Day picnic.
Bush made no secret he intends to continue courting the state.
"It's great to be back in West Virginia. Seems like I'm making a habit of coming here," he said to laughter, a little more than the usual twang sounding in his voice. "It ought to be clear to the people of this state that I want to carry West Virginia again."
On this 11th straight day of zigzagging through battleground states, the already brutal pace of the campaign seemed to be catching up to the president, who briefly mixed up what day it was.
"Did you win last night," he asked an audience in the stands of the local high school football stadium. He then quickly corrected himself, "Or last Friday? You did? Good. That's great. Now go do your homework."