ATHENS, Ohio - Crisscrossing the Ohio River in economically struggling Appalachia yesterday, vice presidential candidate John Edwards accused President Bush of picking sides and told crowds they aren't the winning side.
"Are you on the side of the Halliburtons of the world, are you on the side of the multimillionaire investors to make sure they put more money in your pocket, or are you on the side of the people who are losing their jobs?'' he asked.
Later, he said, "I know that George Bush and Dick Cheney, they want to make sure they take care of their multimillion-dollar investment friends.''
Starting with a town meeting of about 500 in Parkersburg, W.Va., and finishing with a rally before several thousand on the campus of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Mr. Edwards said the President has sided with oil companies, drug manufacturers, insurance companies, and HMOs over working Americans.
John Kerry's running mate accused Mr. Bush of trying to divide America, particularly on the issue of terror.
Later, meeting with reporters, Mr. Edwards insisted his own comments are not themselves dividing America into two.
"The Bush economy works very, very well for multimillionaires,'' he said. "It does not work well for most people. What John and I want to do is we want everyone to do well.
"In fact, I would say that, if you look at the eight years before George Bush came into office - when millions of jobs were created and incomes were rising, not going down - the net result was that the rising tide raised all boats,'' he said. "It actually was a much better economy for people at the top of the income spectrum.''
The Democratic North Carolina senator repeatedly hammered the economic recovery Mr. Bush has touted on the campaign trail for bypassing some regions of the nation.
A total of 25 electoral votes are at stake. Mr. Bush carried Ohio and West Virginia in 2000 over Al Gore by margins of 3.5 percent and 6 percent respectively.
Mr. Edwards will continue his two-day tour with a rally today in Portsmouth.
The jobs message resonated with Doug Harris, 46, of Charleston, W.Va., an AT&T account representative who just learned he will lose the job he has had for 28 years when the telecommunications giant closes its Charleston office.
AT&T has decided to no longer aggressively pursue new local and long-distance telephone customers.
"They're outsourcing the jobs to India, the Philippines, Panama, Colombia, Canada,'' he said in Parkersburg. "If you call AT&T, you can get any country. You can't get rid of outsourcing, but if you get rid of the perks, then maybe they'd look closely at keeping jobs in America. All we want is a fighting chance.''
Will Monroe, an 18-year-old Ohio University marketing student supporting Mr. Bush, said Mr. Edwards' talk of two Americas is indeed dividing America.
"They need two Americas so John Kerry can take two positions on everything,'' he said. "Why are you going to make this class warfare? We are all Americans. We should all be in this together.''
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