- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — President Bush continued to shadow the Democratic presidential candidates yesterday with a visit to an automotive engine plant in Missouri, where he warned that his presumptive opponent in November has promised to raise taxes.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts solidified his front-runner status with a landslide victory in the Missouri presidential primary last week.

Though Mr. Bush did not single out Mr. Kerry by name, he directed his comments toward the liberal senator who has said he would repeal at least part of the president’s tax cuts if elected.

“Some people in Washington want to raise your taxes, there’s no doubt about it,” Mr. Bush said. “When they say we are going to repeal the Bush tax cuts, that means they are going to raise your taxes. That’s wrong, and that’s bad economics.”

Mr. Bush’s visit to this town nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains marked the president’s 15th trip to this key electoral swing state since taking office. The president edged out Al Gore in Missouri in 2000, 50 percent to 47 percent.

Yesterday’s trip was the third time in three weeks that he arrived in an area where campaigning Democratic contenders had just left. He visits Pennsylvania, another important state for his re-election chances, for the 25th time on Thursday.

Mr. Bush used the carefully scripted “conversation on the economy” at the Springfield Remanufacturing Corp. plant to vigorously defend his record as president and touch on his campaign themes.

He credited his three rounds of tax cuts, one in each year of his term, for stopping a recession he inherited and beginning a slow economic turnaround.

“A lot of [the recovery] had to do because we cut your taxes,” said Mr. Bush, explaining he has instituted policies that encourage the creation and growth of small businesses.

The administration says that if the tax cuts are allowed to expire, 111 million Americans would pay, on average, $1,586 more in taxes.

A poll released this week by the Annenberg Public Policy Center shows that Mr. Bush has yet to convince a majority of Americans that his tax plans have helped fatten their pocket books.

About 33 percent of Americans, according to the Annenberg poll, said last spring’s tax cuts have benefited them “a great deal or some,” but 64 percent said they did not get much benefit or didn’t benefit at all.

Following up his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Mr. Bush made it clear that the war on terror would be a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.

“By now, you might be getting an idea of how [September 11] changed my outlook,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Kerry has suggested that the so-far fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq proves that the president took the nation to war under false pretenses.

Mr. Bush remains steadfast, however, that he made the right decision.

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