President Bush, energized by news that U.S. unemployment was at a five-year low, tried to focus the Battle for Congress on the economy Friday, hammering away at Democrats — in particular, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — who he says will do away with tax cuts.
"People are working in the United States, the tax cuts have worked," Bush told a Republican rally in Springfield, Mo., where the president was stumping for incumbent Sen. Jim Talent.
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"If these tax cuts are not extended or made permanent, your taxes are going up," Bush warned, charging that Pelosi already had asked "the man who would be chairman of Ways and Means [Charles Rangel, D-NY]" whether he would preserve the cuts.
"Not a one, not a tax cut," Bush said Pelosi was told.
Rangel, later appearing on FOX News, when asked whether he would roll back tax cuts, said: "That's bad tax policy and bad politics."
The fiery rhetoric came as Republican and Democratic candidates across the country scrambled to swing undecided voters into their camp before Tuesday's vote to decide which party will control Congress — and, an array of issues from the economy to Iraq and the War on Terror.
Pelosi was not to be outdone, however, firing back at the president who she claimed had "the worst jobs record since the Great Depression," in spite of Friday's news that the October jobless rate fell to 4.4 percent, the lowest it has been in more than five years.
"While we are glad there is some good news for the American people, this jobs report does not fundamentally change the fact that President Bush's handling of the economy is not good for America's middle-income families," Pelosi charged in a statement released after the Labor Department put out its October numbers.
"The President has the worst jobs record since the Great Depression, and the economy is slowing due to the housing slump. The budget and trade deficits as well as public debt levels have all climbed to record levels," Pelosi said.
Bush shot back, telling Talent supporters that his administration should get credit for cutting the budget deficit.
"We have cut the deficit in half three years ahead of schedule," Bush said. "If the Democrats election predictions are as good as their economic predictions, we're going to have a good day on Nov. 7."
Al Hubbard, assistant to the president for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council, called Pelosi's criticism "absolutely remarkable."
"This economy is humming," Hubbard said. "She can criticize the president for other things if she wants to, but to criticize the president about the economy, the result is she's losing all credibility."
"We're going to win this election because we've got a record to run on. We've done some things and it's made this country a better place," Bush said.
While Bush continued on a six-day campaign push for Republicans with scheduled stops in Missouri and Iowa, possible Democratic contender for the 2008 White House Sen. Barack Obama stumped for Rep. Ben Cardin in Maryland. Cardin is in a close race with Republican Michael Steele, a race that attracts national interest because it could effect the majority of the Senate.
The final push comes amid Republican hopes that Democratic Sen. John Kerry's "stuck in Iraq" blunder earlier this week will help them on Election Day. Kerry issued an apology on his Web site for his "poorly worded joke" and canceled all public appearances.
Former Sen. John Edwards, Kerry's 2004 vice presidential running mate, said Kerry's comments won't hurt Democrats.
"I think what's going to affect the election is what's been happening in America for the last six years," Edwards said. "I think what's going to matter is people are motivated to go vote because they know America is better than what we're seeing right now."
Republicans hope to motivate supporters to the polls after suffering setbacks with ethics scandals, violence in Iraq and growing Democratic confidence to take over the House and Senate.
Several Senate seats up for grabs are in close races in Virginia, Montana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Rhode Island.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole, chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told FOX News while some campaigns are running neck-and-neck, Republicans won't lose the Senate.
"We're going to keep the majority in the United States Senate," Dole said.
In Rhode Island, a noted GOP operative told FOX News late Thursday that internal polls show the race between Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse and Sen. Lincoln Chafee have closed up despite public polling to the contrary.
In Tennessee, former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker flew ahead of Democratic Rep. Harold Ford in the latest poll, a 10-point edge for Corker that even some Republicans say seems too good to be true. Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, denied that Tennessee is slipping away, saying DSCC internal polls "show us ahead a little bit" in the state.
In Virginia, polls show Sen. George Allen and former Navy secretary James Webb running within a point of each other. Webb grabbed the lead in just the last week. Calling Virginia, the "Cinderella story," Schumer said he's not declaring victory yet, but "wait until you see the new ads … wait until you see — that's all I can say."
Obama, who is campaigning for Maryland's Cardin on Friday, drew about 1,000 Webb supporters to a ballroom in Arlington, Va., on Thursday. Actor Michael J. Fox joined Obama and retired Gen. Wesley Clark to rally support for Webb.
In Missouri, Bush's stop is the latest one where he appears only in states that he won in the 2004 presidential race, not swing states that could hurt Republican hopes for victory.
The Missouri race also stands out as one of a handful of races with a ballot measure that would allow embryonic stem cell research.
Fox appeared in campaign ads for McCaskill, who supports the ballot measure. Fox, who shakes from effects of Parkinson's disease in the ad, touted his support for McCaskill.
Pundits are following the tight races as Democrats need six seats to take back the House with seven to 60 races coming down to the wire.
"In Washington, D.C., the pundits have already decided who is going to win. They forgot the people of Missouri hadn't voted yet," Bush told supporters at the rally.
Republicans say they are seeing some late-breaking upward momentum for their candidates in a couple of Senate races that for a long time had been tracking toward Democrats.
"Right now, it's going to come down to a few toss-up states — Montana, Virginia and Missouri. Really close," said John McIntyre, president of RealClearPolitics.com, which has been closely monitoring the polls.
In Montana, blunder-prone Sen. Conrad Burns got a second wind Thursday in his bid to hang onto his seat. The latest poll showed Burns within one point of his opponent, Democrat Jon Tester, and President Bush appeared at a rally to rile up the base in the Republican stronghold state.
With just days left to the election, incumbent Republican senators in conservative states are still counting on Bush to attend rallies and excite the base, a task the president hopes to achieve by pressing the issue of confirming conservative judges to the federal bench, warning voters about potential tax hikes under a Democratic majority and insisting that Republicans won't desert the troops as they try to meet their objectives in the War on Terror.