KWAME HOLMAN: Heading into the last weekend of the presidential campaign, John Kerry chose to spend most of the day stumping in Florida in hopes of winning the state's 27 electoral votes. Meanwhile, President Bush began his campaign day in New Hampshire, worth four electoral votes.
New Hampshire was the only New England state Mr. Bush won four years ago, but recent statewide polls show the president in a struggle to do so again. And so, at a hockey arena in Manchester, President Bush exhorted the crowd about just how good things have gotten during the Bush administration.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Think about this. Home ownership rate is at an all-time high in America. (Cheers and applause) More minority families own a home than ever before in our nation's history. (Cheers and applause) In the course of traveling in your state, I've met a lot of small business owners who are making a good living because of our tax relief and because of their ingenuity and vision.
And because they're making a good living, they're hiring people. We've added 1.9 million new jobs across this country in the last 13 months. The national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent. Let me put that in perspective for you: That's lower than the average rate of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s. (Cheers and applause) The unemployment rate in the great state of New Hampshire is 3.5 percent. (Cheers and applause)
Our economic policies are working. In a new term, we'll keep your taxes low. We'll reduce the regulations. We'll do something about these lawsuits. We will put plans in place to make sure the entrepreneurial spirit is strong so people can continue to work.
KWAME HOLMAN: As the president spoke this morning, there were a few minor distractions. Protestors held up placards in opposition to President Bush. They were ushered out of the arena. And in the middle of the president's speech a confetti cannon shot off prematurely. (Explosion) The president paused and then continued, claiming success in the war in Iraq and the war on terror.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We have come so far. We have accomplished so much, yet our work is not finished. All of us are part of a great historic endeavor. We will lead our country through a time of danger. We will build a world of freedom and peace beyond the war of terror.
I know we'll succeed. I know the character of the American people. (Cheers and applause) The polls open in Manchester at 6:00 A.M. on Tuesday. (Cheers and applause) For a safer America, for a stronger America and for a better America, I ask the people of New Hampshire to vote for me. (Cheers and applause )
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, at his rally in Orlando, John Kerry was insisting Mr. Bush had failed as president.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: By now it is clear that no matter who tells him, no matter how many times he hears it and no matter how bad things get, George W. Bush just doesn't understand the problems that are facing America.
In Iraq every day, every headline has brought fresh evidence that our commander-in- chief doesn't see what's happening, or he does see it but he isn't leveling with the American people about why we went to war in Iraq, how the war is going, and he has no idea how to put this policy back on track.
His mistakes and misjudgments have hurt our troops, have put our troops at greater risk, have overextended the armed forces of the United States, have driven away our allies, have diverted our focus from Osama bin Laden and the real war on terror. And that's just abroad.
At home, George Bush looks at lost jobs, falling wages and rising costs and tells struggling middle-class families that everything's just fine. Well, that's because for the powerful and the well-connected friends he's spent the last four years fighting for, it really is the best economy of a lifetime.
And now he's asking you to give him another four years so that he can keep giving those friends the same old special treatment they've gotten for the last four years. Well, that does not have to be our future. That may be George Bush's record but it doesn't have to be America's future. And if we do our work, it won't be.
KWAME HOLMAN: John Kerry held a second rally this afternoon in West Palm Beach and this evening planned to be joined again by rocker Bruce Springsteen for a rally in Miami. (Cheers and applause) President Bush attended another rally in Portsmouth, then moved on to Ohio for a late-afternoon event in Toledo and an evening rally in Columbus joined by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
JIM LEHRER: Late this afternoon, both President Bush and Sen. Kerry spoke about the bin Laden tape. The president was in Toledo, Ohio. The senator was in West Palm Beach, Florida.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Let me make this very clear. Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country. I'm sure Sen. Kerry agrees with this. I also want to say to the American people that we're at war with these terrorists, and I am confident that we will prevail. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In response to this tape of Osama bin Laden, let me just make it clear, crystal clear: As Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. They are barbarians. And I will stop at absolutely nothing to hunt down, capture or kill the terrorists wherever they are, whatever it takes.