RENO (AP) " President Bush arrived in Nevada on Friday on a western campaign swing to bring the battleground state a message of an improving economy and a steadfast position on the war in Iraq.
Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn and other state officials waiting on the tarmac greeted Bush, who quickly entered a limousine after Air Force One touched down about 50 minutes behind schedule at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Bush and his entourage were to travel barely a mile by motorcade to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, where Bush planned a speech to some 9,700 supporters who cheered in anticipation of his arrival.
Security was tight, and U.S. 395 and surrounding roads were shut down to other traffic for the president's short trip.
It was the second visit to Nevada by Bush as president, who arrived after appearances in the state of Washington.
Arizona Sen. John McCain accompanied Bush as a sign of Republican unity. Earlier in Fort Lewis, Wash., the popular Republican senator who has rebuffed overtures from John Kerry to be the Democrat's running mate praised Bush's efforts in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"You will not yield and neither will he," McCain told troops just back from the battlefield.
Bush later met with wounded soldiers and families of others who died in recent combat.
In Nevada, Bush was expected to discuss economic recovery and job growth as a result of his policies.
About 3,000 people lined South Virginia Street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president.
Outside the convention center, hundreds of Democrats and Kerry supporters rallied. Opponents of the war in Iraq and foes of the Patriot Act joined Democrats protesting the president's decision to locate the nation's nuclear waste dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
After promising in the 2000 presidential campaign to base his decision on Yucca Mountain on "sound science" and not politics, Bush in 2002 approved an Energy Department plan to store 77,000 tons of radioactive waste in Nevada.
"He lied to the citizens of Nevada and he did it for partisan political gain," Terry McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee chairman, said by telephone Friday.
Bush campaign chief Marc Racicot has said he doesn't know whether Bush's support for the nuclear waste dump will tighten a race already expected to be close.
Nevada's registered voters are almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. In 2000, Bush won the state's four electoral votes by 4 percentage points, 50-46, over Al Gore. Nevada will have five electoral votes this year.
Racicot said Nevada residents "know the president has been entirely honest with them" about Yucca Mountain, and the campaign's hope is that they will understand "their obligations and duties" in helping resolve the problem of nuclear waste that has collected for years in 39 states.
After his speech, Bush is to fly back to the Camp David presidential retreat for the weekend.
On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to visit Henderson and deliver a speech about the economy.
On the Net:
Bush campaign: http://www.georgewbush.com
Kerry campaign: http://www.johnkerry.com/