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Published: 8/11/2004

Laura Bush continues stumping on behalf of votes, entrepreneurs

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - First Lady Laura Bush promoted her husband's re-election in three Midwestern battleground states yesterday, focusing on the contributions women business owners are making to their communities and taking an aggressive step into the political spotlight that marks a new role for her.

A day after talking to women entrepreneurs in downtown Toledo, she made three stops in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, touting tax cuts signed by President Bush, saying they have allowed small companies to channel the savings into new equipment and employees.

It is a message she plans to continue delivering until election day, as part of a plan to appeal to women voters. A recent poll by Zogby Interactive shows that, among women Mr. Bush trails Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry in each state the First Lady visited yesterday, sometimes by wide margins.

In Ohio, Mr. Kerry enjoys just a slight advantage among women, but 51 percent of women respondents in Ohio said they believe the country is moving in the wrong direction, compared to 45 percent who said things were right on track.

"I will be on the campaign trail for the next three months, talking about the President's accomplishments, and what is needed to move America forward. And the best part for me is just meeting the remarkable people from all across our country," Mrs. Bush said.

The Bush campaign has deployed her to inspire supporters.

In Grafton, a northern suburb of Milwaukee, she toured the headquarters of a employee staffing company started 30 years ago by Carol Schneider. The firm, which provides businesses with temporary and permanent employees, now has 14 offices sprinkled across Wisconsin and is expanding to other states.

"Small-business owners are some of the hardest workers we have in America," she told 200 people meeting at the company's headquarters. "Carol has taught her children the value of hard work, integrity, and independence. And this is what America's business owners teach all of us, especially women entrepreneurs."

In Waite Park, Minn., she toured a sprawling quilt shop started six years ago by Sue Poser.

"This is a wonderful place for me, a woman, to tour, to see such great fabrics that will one day keep some soul warm," she said, praising the shop's owners for their community service. The shop's employees work together to quilt blankets that are then auctioned off, the proceeds going to charity.

Against the backdrop of a quilted flag and another red, white, and blue quilt that declared that "W is for women," Mrs. Bush said that the "President is working hard to help us achieve our dreams, and he has three strong women at home that don't let him forget it."

The First Lady closed out her campaign tour with an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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