KWAME HOLMAN: This campaign day began early for John Kerry, just after midnight as the Republican National Convention drew to a close.
A large crowd had gathered in Springfield, in the battleground state of Ohio, and running mate John Edwards went on the offensive.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: If you believe that this country is going in the right direction and if you believe that you're doing better than you were four years ago, then you go vote for George Bush.
But if you believe... but if you believe as John and I do that we're headed in the wrong direction and that we can do better and that we can do better for the lives of Americans, then we ask you to join us in this effort to change the direction of our country.
KWAME HOLMAN: President Bush had an early call himself, heading directly from his New York convention speech to another battleground state, Pennsylvania, and the town of Moosic.
The president touted today's report of an increase in the number of new jobs created last month.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe the role of government is not to try to create wealth but an environment in which the entrepreneur, the small business, the farmer and the rancher can survive.
I believe in the spirit and innovative power of the American worker, and that is why we unleashed the energy of our economy with the largest tax relief in decades. (Applause) Because we acted, our economy is growing again. Because we acted, we've overcome recession, scandal, stock market decline, and a terrorist attack.
This morning, we received jobs report for August, and it shows that our economy is strong and getting stronger. We added 144,000 new jobs. (Applause) Our growing economy is spreading prosperity and opportunity, and nothing will hold us back. (Applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: Moving on to the Ohio town of Newark, John Kerry saw those same figures differently.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: What they've done is take America backwards. What they've done is make it harder for the average American family to get ahead. You've seen just today the latest job numbers have come out for the last month, 144,000 jobs.
At that rate, you won't have a net -- new job created in the stout of Ohio until 2011. John Edwards and I have a plan to put America back to work now, not ten years from now. (Applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: President Bush's second stop was near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He repeated a theme from last night's speech-- defending his decision on Iraq.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat. So I went to the United States Congress. They looked at the same intelligence I did, remembered the same history of Saddam and they saw a threat. My opponent looked at the very same intelligence, and when asked to vote on a resolution that authorized the use of force, he voted, "aye."
The last choice of the commander-in-chief is to put troops in harm's way. So I felt it was important to try diplomacy. I went to the United Nations. The United Nations looked at the same intelligence and the United Nations Security Council resolved, unanimously resolved that Saddam Hussein must disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, John Kerry continued to strike back against those, including the Bush campaign, who have criticized him for his actions during and after the Vietnam War.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: But the first lie detector test ever given in Ohio was given in 1933 right here in Newark. And it's very obvious that it's lucky for my opponent that his convention was held in New York and not here. (Cheers and applause)
Vice President Cheney suggested that I was unfit for office and unfit to be commander in chief. Well, let me... I'll let you and the American people decide whether five deferments makes you more unfit than two tours of duty in the military. I'll let them decide that. (Cheers and applause)
But I'll tell you what does make you unfit to lead this nation. I think misleading your nation into war makes you unfit to lead this nation. (Cheers and applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: With 60 days to the election, and most polls having shown the race a dead heat, President Bush is looking for a bounce after this week's convention.