- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2004

Sen. John Kerry is targeting rural voters in Midwest states this weekend and began yesterday in Minnesota, saying his plan to improve the economy and create jobs will help small-town America.

The Democratic presidential candidate told several hundred voters in Cloquet, Minn., that President Bush’s policies have failed them.

“Don’t tell us losing 1,300 dairy farms in Minnesota is the best we can do,” said the Massachusetts Democrat, who moves on to towns in Wisconsin and Iowa today. “We have the best family farms in America, but we’re denying those family farms the chance to be the best.”

Mr. Kerry pointed to economic numbers released yesterday that showed the unemployment rate remained unchanged for the third month in a row and employers added 112,000 payroll jobs in June, fewer than economists had expected.

The Bush administration says 1.5 million jobs have been created in the past 10 months. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, said Mr. Bush’s policies are working in the state, which added 19,000 jobs in April and May.

Mr. Kerry yesterday pledged to close tax loopholes that encourage companies to move jobs overseas, invest in broadband access to help small businesses in rural areas compete effectively, and cut middle-class taxes while repealing Mr. Bush’s tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year.

He also said he will encourage the use of renewable fuels derived from corn and soybeans, and promised a “declaration of independence from Mideast oil,” taking a subtle swipe at the administration by stating, “No young American in uniform should ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Mideast.”

Republicans said rural voters from middle-class America should think twice before supporting Mr. Kerry.

“The challenge to voters is to put his stump speech on mute, and look at his history and the positions he’s taken against the middle class and rural America,” said Reed Dickens, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

Mr. Dickens said Mr. Kerry has voted against repealing the “death tax,” and has favored “killing marriage relief for the middle class.” Mr. Kerry said in 1995 that the Agriculture Department should be eliminated to reduce the size of government, Mr. Dickens added.

Rick Graber, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said Mr. Kerry’s overall plan for the country is “a disaster … certainly for rural Wisconsin.”

He said Mr. Kerry’s plan to repeal Mr. Bush’s tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year would affect many small businesses, including family farms.

“An awful lot of farms are going to get nailed. That doesn’t help,” Mr. Graber said. “This is not a guy who’s been a friend of the farmer, certainly not in the Midwest.”

He also said Mr. Kerry wants to raise the gas tax and is “completely out of touch” with rural America on issues of gun rights and national security.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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