President Bush is campaigning in the key Midwest swing state of Missouri, defending the U.S. invasion of Iraq against criticism from Democratic challenger John Kerry. President Bush came to this rural part of southeast Missouri after more than ten-thousand people here signed a petition asking him to visit because no president had ever come to Poplar Bluff. "I get a lot of invitations. I've never gotten one with ten-thousand signatures on it. But I was somewhat surprised when we choppered over her because it looks like there is a lot more people than ten-thousand who have come today." This is the president's 21st visit to Missouri, a state he won four years ago by just three percentage points. Both campaigns are pushing hard for votes in the state. Missouri public opinion polls taken before last week's Republican convention showed the president with a four point lead over Senator Kerry. President Bush spends the night in Kansas City before a bus tour of Missouri Tuesday and a visit to Florida Wednesday to inspect the damage from Hurricane Frances, informs VOANews. According to Reuters, democratic presidential nominee John Kerry launched one of his harshest broadsides against the Iraq war on Monday, sparking an angry response from President Bush, as the war overshadowed their attempts to focus on the economy. Marking Labor Day, the traditional kickoff for what has become a marathon presidential campaign season, the two candidates held rallies in the battleground states of Missouri, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio with Kerry now trailing by double digits in national polls. Kerry tried to focus on domestic issues at a neighborhood meeting in Canonsburg, but members of the audience raised Iraq. After months of off-and-on criticism of the war, Kerry seized the opening, calling the invasion "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," and said his goal was to withdraw U.S. troops in a first White House term. In a statement issued later, Kerry called Iraq a "quagmire" created by Bush's "wrongheaded, go-it-alone" policy. Bush turned from his tax reform proposals to shoot back at Kerry during a rally in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, accusing the Massachusetts senator of vacillating on Iraq after bringing in new advisers. Democrat John Kerry, whose Labor Day schedule included stops in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, argued the recovery is the weakest on record for job creation and those new jobs pay less and offer fewer benefits. But the two candidates spent much of the day sparring on Iraq. Toppling Saddam Hussein was "right for America," Bush said, rebutting Kerry's claim that involvement in Iraq has left the United States with a heavy burden of casualties and a bundle of bills. Bush accused Kerry of wavering on the war, adding: "My opponent woke up this morning with new campaign advisers and yet another new position" on Iraq. "Suddenly he's against it again," Bush said of Kerry's position on Iraq. "No matter how many times Senator Kerry changes his mind, it was right for America then and it's right for America now if Saddam Hussein is no longer in power." Kerry, on his own Labor Day tour of Midwestern states, Kerry faulted Bush on almost every aspect of his move toward war in Iraq. He told voters that, if elected, he would try to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq before his first term was over. "This president rushed to war without a plan to win the peace, and he's cost all of you $200 billion that could have gone to schools, could have gone to health care, could have gone to prescription drugs, could have gone to our Social Security," Kerry said in Canonsburg, Pa. "It's the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." During his stop in Poplar Bluff, the president also reiterated his pledge to work toward simplifying the tax code in his second term. He said he would lead a bipartisan team to simplify the tax code, which he called "a complicated mess." On Tuesday, Bush planned to campaign again in Missouri, publishes ABCNEWS.
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