PITTSBURGH - President Bush made his case for re-election before thousands of raucous supporters downtown yesterday afternoon, citing his stewardship of the war on terrorism, the economy and a host of other issues, while laying out some of his plans for a second term.
The 45-minute speech was part of Bush's two-day "Heart and Soul of America" tour that started Friday in Missouri and moved yesterday to Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It was also part of a quick response to the Democratic convention earlier in the week.
"They recently held a meeting in Boston," Mr. Bush told the packed convention center, in his third visit to the year-old facility. He argued that his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, has had "thousands of votes, but few signature achievements" during a two-decade career in the U.S. Senate.
A sea of red, white and blue filled the cavernous center when Mr. Bush entered the stage, wearing shirtsleeves and no tie. After an introduction by former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann, Bush told supporters campaign officials put the number at 10,000 that his own record over the last three and a half years was filled with achievements.
"Why, why why should the American people give me the great privilege of serving four more years?" Mr. Bush asked. Then he answered, "We've accomplished a great deal. We have so much more to do to move this country forward.
"Pennsylvania has added more than 68,000 jobs over the past four months," he said, adding that those jobs were part of 1.5 million added nationally since last August.
Mr. Bush received his loudest applause when he described his administration's ongoing efforts to combat terrorism across the globe.
"If America shows weakness and uncertainty in this decade, the world will drift toward danger. This will not happen on my watch," he said to wild cheers.
Mr. Bush said that he would continue to aggressively prosecute the war on terrorism, while attempting to aid in the building of democratic societies in Afghanistan and Iraq.
His constant refrain was, "we have more to do," offering brief sketches of several plans for a second term, including private social security accounts, health care and tort reform.
He also cited one homegrown faith-based organization, North Hills Community Outreach, headed by executive director Fay Morgan, a program that began informally in 1986 to help families in northern Allegheny County facing financial ruin after that year's devastating flood. The program now provides needy families with food, employment counseling, financial assistance, and a host of other services.
President Bush was also introduced by Sen. Rick Santorum, who praised the President's decision to place temporary tariffs on imported steel several years ago, crediting him with giving American steel companies a chance to become more efficient in the face of foreign competition.
"George Bush, by one stroke of his pen, saved the steel industry in the United States of America," Senator Santorum said.
A small crowd of protesters gathered outside the convention center before the speech, including the newly created local chapter of Billionaires for Bush, a group that dress as the ultra-rich and pretend to support Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush received high marks from those in attendance. "I just like the way he stands his ground, " said John Barbich, 43, of Hopewell, Pa.. "You know exactly what he means."
Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush addressed similarly enthusiastic supporters in two Ohio cities, first in Canton and then in Cambridge.
"The economy is strong, and it's getting stronger, " Mr. Bush said to enthusiastic applause in Canton.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jerome Sherman is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.