MUSCATINE, Iowa – Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) accused the Bush administration on Thursday of ignoring problems ranging from scarce flu vaccine to the war in Iraq while officials campaign in battleground states and asked, "Who's minding the store?"
Edwards, speaking in a high school gymnasium during a bus tour of eastern Iowa, cited national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (search), Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (search) and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans (search) as examples of Bush officials who are campaigning while pressing issues remain unresolved.
"There's a solution for this," Edwards said. "In America, that's called an election."
Edwards focused on pocketbook issues, particularly jobs, in hopes of energizing Democratic voters in a state where the election is far too close to call. New statistics show the state's jobless rate rose from 4.5 percent in August to 4.7 percent in September, the third straight monthly increase.
Edwards said Iowa has lost 25,900 jobs during President Bush's tenure.
"George Bush is never going to make this better," Edwards said. "Again this month, unemployment went up, but they think all of this is a myth."
Treasury Secretary John Snow characterized reports of net job losses under Bush a "myth" when visiting Ohio earlier this month.
"George Bush and Dick Cheney are completely out of touch with what's happening in the real world," Edwards said.
Gene Sperling, an economic adviser to Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign, said the numbers in Iowa could have been worse had there not been 2,600 fewer people in the work force. He contended that many Iowans have given up looking for jobs.
Sperling said job creation has been at "an extremely weak and anemic level" in recent months and predicted it would take years to recover the jobs lost under Bush.
Voting is under way in Iowa, with absentee ballots in the mail and satellite voting sites set up in most of Iowa's 99 counties. Iowa went Democratic in 2000 but by barely 4,000 votes. Both parties have targeted its seven electoral votes in this election.