President Bush and Vice President Cheney Monday took fresh news of an improving employment outlook to Ohio and Nevada, states that are considered crucial for the two if they are to continue their own employment for another four years.
Although payrolls have been expanding nationwide for several months, some of the states most heavily affected by job loss during Bush's term have been the nearly 20 battleground states in which November's election will be decided. On Friday, however, the Labor Department released statistics showing that many of those most evenly divided states are beginning to add significant numbers of jobs.
"I was pleased to see that the unemployment rate here in Ohio dropped to 5.6 percent," Bush said at an event here meant to showcase what he calls his "compassion agenda." "People are going back to work. The economy's getting better." May's 5.6 percent unemployment rate in Ohio was down from 5.8 percent in April.
In a campaign speech in Las Vegas, Cheney sounded a similar theme. "As we learned last Friday, 3,800 Nevada workers found new jobs in May, and more than 94,000 have gone back to work since January of '02," he said. "People in Nevada have more money in their pockets because of President Bush's tax cuts, and you are putting that money to good use."
The improvement in employment in Ohio hasn't come a moment too soon. The state has lost more than 200,000 jobs since Bush took office. It is one of the few that has lost employment over the past year, shedding 19,100 jobs, and other battleground states such as Michigan, Illinois and West Virginia were also among those losing jobs.
No Republican has been elected president without winning Ohio, and polls show Democrat John F. Kerry is within reach of beating Bush here. Both candidates have been targeting Ohio, with Bush making 18 visits as president and Kerry making about a dozen this year alone.
Bush was accompanied on Air Force One by his top political strategist, Karl Rove, and his campaign finance coordinator, Mercer Reynolds III. A dinner event in Cincinnati Monday night featuring Bush raised $2.5 million for the Republican Party.
Nevada, also fiercely contested, has been getting intense presidential attention. Cheney's visit, his third in a year, follows a visit by Bush last week. The fast-growing state has one of the strongest job markets in the country, which has lost 1.2 million jobs overall since Bush took office.
Cheney spoke of a nationwide jobs boom. "America added 248,000 jobs in May -- our ninth consecutive month of job creation," he said. "American businesses have created jobs for nearly a million workers in the last 100 days alone, and we've added over 1.4 million jobs since last August."
Cheney ridiculed Kerry's "Misery Index," used by the candidate to show flaws in the economy under Bush. "The problem is that by Senator Kerry's definition, things actually got better during the Carter years," he said.
The Kerry campaign countered that, despite the recent job growth, the economy has lost 1.9 million private-sector jobs on Bush's watch. "George Bush says the economy is strong, but it's not strong for most middle-class families," Kerry spokesman Phil Singer said. "John Kerry believes we can do better than 1.9 million jobs lost, 42 million people without health care, and deficits as far as the eye can see."