President says Kerry failed to make connection between education, jobs |

President says Kerry failed to make connection between education, jobs

Associated Press Writer

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – Campaigning in a swing county in Iowa that he lost four years ago, President Bush criticized Sen. John Kerry on education and jobs Friday, saying the Democrat fails to understand the connection between the two.

“In the final debate I talked about the vital link between education and jobs; the senator didn’t seem to get it,” Bush told thousands of supporters in the heart of the biggest media market in Iowa that covers some 30 counties in the eastern part of the state.

Bush said good jobs begin with education and that Kerry “failed to recognize the changing realities of today’s world and the need for reform.”

Phil Singer, spokesman for the Kerry campaign, said, “the only one who doesn’t get it is George Bush. Bush was asked about job losses and his only answer was talking about kindergarten classes. Who’s he kidding?”

The administration’s programs for job retraining and accountability in the nation’s schools are elements of the president’s campaign agenda, and both have drawn strong criticism from the Kerry campaign, which says they are inadequately funded.

The president is taking a calculated risk by focusing on jobs. Though Iowa’s unemployment rate is 4.5 percent, well below the national rate of 5.4 percent, the state has lost 28,000 jobs since Bush took office, with the Cedar Rapids area losing 10,000.

In 2000, the president lost the county that includes Cedar Rapids by an 8,000-vote margin out of some 90,000 votes cast; he lost the state by less than 5,000 votes.

Bush flew to Iowa on the homestretch of more than a week on the campaign trail that included stops in St. Louis and Tempe, Ariz., for the last two debates. After his Iowa appearance, Bush was heading to Wisconsin where Kerry spent the day campaigning.

Bush on Thursday night campaigned in Oregon, which he lost in 2000 by less than 7,000 votes.

The president spent the night in an Oregon County that a local poll indicates is now evenly divided between the president and Kerry. The county which Bush won handily four years ago is a traditional Republican stronghold.

The poll suggesting a tight race is a surprising development for an area where the breakdown of registered voters is 42 percent Republican, 34 percent Democrat and 21 percent independents – a pattern that has not changed significantly in the past four years.

The area in southern Oregon near the California state line has turned from a declining timber industry to tourism and retirement for its strong economy.

Bush stayed overnight in gold-rush era Jacksonville, the focal point of a restoration effort over many decades by its 2,300 residents that has made the entire town a National Historic Landmark.

Jackson County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Platt says he has never seen so much attention lavished on the area by presidential campaigns.

Kerry and running mate John Edwards and Vice President Dick Cheney all have visited once this year.

Platt says Republican Party contacts with 13,000 independent voters indicate they would break 2-to-1 for Bush, throwing the county to the president.

As evidence that the political picture is in their favor, Democrats point to people like John Bova, 52, an Ashland land surveyor who sported a “Republicans for Kerry” button at this week’s appearance by Edwards.

“I think the principals of the Republican Party are good,” but rising deficits, going into Iraq without a broad coalition of nations and a growing government do not go along with those principals,” Bova said. “I’m not happy with what ‘W ‘ is doing in about every facet – mainly Iraq.”

Reporter Jeff Barnard, the AP’s southern Oregon correspondent, contributed to this report.