A day after Republicans mined the events of Sept. 11, 2001, for their emotional resonance, one of President Bush's closest congressional allies said speakers will begin to talk more about the economy as Bush prepares to lay out his second term agenda Thursday night.

Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told Washington Post editors and reporters Tuesday that an open discussion about tax cuts, trade and creating economic opportunity will help Bush win in the Midwest.

"In a state like Ohio where there is a lot of anxiety about this new economy," Portman said, the economy "really distinguishes the president and his agenda most from John Kerry's agenda." (Listen to an {lt}a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/mmedia/politics/083104-10s.htm"{gt}{lt}person{gt}audio excerpt{lt}/person{gt}{lt}/a{gt} from Portman's dicussion about the economy. He also discussed {lt}a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/mmedia/politics/083104-11s.htm "{gt}{lt}person{gt}courting minority voters{lt}/person{gt}{lt}/a{gt}.)

But the five-term Ohio congressman, who was a strong supporter ofBush's tax cuts, admitted that it can be a difficult case to make--especially in Ohio, where as many as 130,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in the first three years of the Bush administration. "There is an anxiety out there," Portman said, while adding he is convinced that talking about the economy is important and will favor the president.

Portman, who represents one of Ohio's most conservative districts including part of Cincinnati, emphasized the need for more changes to the tax code and international trade practices to help what he called the positive effects of the Bush tax cut to take root and generate jobs.

"I do believe we can compete and win," Portman said. But he cautioned: "I don't think it's going to be without additional anxiety because workers are going to have to change jobs more frequently, we're going to have to be more agile, more innovative than ever."

Voters will start to hear more soon about the second term agenda, according to Portman, who will address the convention here on Wednesday. He said Bush chose to wait to present his priorities to better focus voters on his vision of the next four years. He also said that Republicans are remarkably united behind Bush, as opposed to Democrats, who he said are more united against the president than for Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.).

"The party is more unified than ever and it's not just superficial," he said. "Our economic message is united."