Bush, Kerry tours nearly come face to face
The cat-and-mouse chase continued in Davenport, Iowa, on Wednesday.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
DAVENPORT, Iowa -- There are more than 1.3 million square miles of battleground territory in this year's election, but Wednesday, President Bush and John Kerry managed to end up practically in the same block.
As Kerry presided over a roundtable discussion with businessmen here, Bush held an outdoor rally before several thousand supporters down the street at LeClaire Park on the banks of the Mississippi River.
By noon, the over-stretched Davenport police also had to contend with armed robberies at three local banks.
"It was pretty crazy," police Sgt. Michael Colclasure sighed.
Kerry used Bush's presence nearby to mock the president's refrain that the economy has "turned the corner."
"He could come here for a good discussion, if he could just turn the corner," Kerry told about 350 business and labor leaders.
Iowa Rep. Jim Nussle, a Republican, called the Bush-Kerry convergence "the duel in Davenport." But Bush ignored Kerry as he touted his record and urged voters to give him four more years in the White House.
"The other folks talk a good game, we deliver," Bush said. "We're moving America forward, and we're not going to turn back."
That the campaigns would intersect in the American heartland was no accident. Kerry and Bush have been chasing each other for the past week through crucial swing states from Pennsylvania to West Virginia, from Ohio to Michigan and now Iowa.
Such hot pursuit is remarkable this early and reflects the intensity of both campaigns. With a small number of undecided voters and high zeal among partisans, both camps believe these Midwestern stops could make a big difference.
Tuesday, Kerry took a detour into Cuba City, Wis., a small farm town still smarting over President Bush's decision last May to forgo a stop there.
The two candidates entered Davenport with competing slogans: Bush's "Heart and Soul of America Tour" vs. Kerry's "Believe in America Tour." Bush, with characteristic speed, flew in Wednesday morning, arrived at the rally site as Kerry's event was under way, spoke 55 minutes, left and was in the air before Kerry finished.
The crowd at Bush's rally appeared well short of the 10,000 supporters expected, but enthusiasm was high. Country singer Larry Gatlin helped whip up the crowd by mixing political commentary with a string of hit oldies.
Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said the candidates' overlapping schedules was a coincidence. He said Bush's travel plans are set weeks in advance and that they learned of Kerry's planned visit only last week.
Kerry aides said essentially the same thing.
Kerry aides said that while it has become traditional for a candidate to tour the country following a party convention to build momentum, it's unusual for an opponent, especially a sitting president, to seek to blunt it with a tour of his own.
"This usually happens in October, and usually by the person who's losing," said David Morehouse, a senior Kerry adviser.