Economy, Foreign Policy Top Bush Priorities

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President Bush tends to foreign affairs and to his re-election bank account this week, but his strongest focus is on the economy - a topic taking him to three Midwestern states.

Bush marked Labor Day, traditionally a starting gate for presidential campaigns, with a speech to Ohio union workers in which he addressed the loss of factory jobs, a glaring weak spot in the economy.

The president announced he was creating a high-level government post within the Commerce Department (search) to nurture the manufacturing sector, which has been bleeding jobs in states crucial to his re-election.

On a rain-soaked trip to a union training center in Richfield, Bush said he had directed Commerce Secretary Don Evans (search) to establish an assistant position to focus "on the needs of manufacturers." Keeping factory jobs is critical to a broader economic recovery, the president said, his outdoor venue ringed by cranes, backhoes and bulldozers.

Bush said the nation has lost "thousands of jobs in manufacturing." In fact, the losses have soared into the millions: Of the 2.7 million jobs the U.S. economy has lost since the recession began in early 2001, 2.4 million were in manufacturing.

The president spent August at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, returning to Washington on Saturday. Congress also returns this week following its August break, with members of both political parties ready to increase the pressure on Bush to clearly state the expected costs, in terms of troops and dollars, of occupying Iraq.

Bush was to stay largely out of sight Tuesday, handing off the first game ball of the National Football League season in the Oval Office in the afternoon, but planning no other public appearances.

Wednesday, he was to breakfast with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (search) of the Netherlands, a U.S. ally with forces on the ground in Iraq.

Then Bush was participating in a signing ceremony for bilateral trade pacts with Chile and Singapore. Bush argues that such deals will boost the economy by increasing American exports.

On Thursday, Bush was returning to the road with a speech touting tax cuts as the tonic for the ailing economy. He was scheduled to speak on the economy in Kansas City, Mo.

Missouri, which Bush narrowly won in 2000, long has been on White House political adviser Karl Rove's list of "special concern" states.

Friday, Bush was to visit Indiana, a state he carried easily in the last election, for another speech on the economy.

Bush also will pad his re-election war chest, currently bulging with more than $56 million, at a fund-raiser in Indianapolis. The money is solely for the Republican presidential primary, in which Bush faces no opposition.