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Senator Kerry blasts Bush, leads in primary
Updated: 2004-02-17 12:56

A confident U.S. Democratic Senator John Kerry launched a full-throttle attack on U.S. President George W. Bush, ignoring his Democratic rivals on the eve of the Wisconsin primary.

Kerry, who has a commanding lead in the race to oppose Bush this fall, chided the president for taking time out Sunday to attend the Daytona 500, saying the country was bleeding jobs while he posed for a "photo opportunity." Bush had donned a racing jacket to officially open NASCAR's most prestigious event in front of some 180,000 fans.

"We don't need a president who just says, `Gentlemen start your engines,'" Kerry said. "We need a president who says, `America, let's start our economy and put people back to work.'"

Kerry for the most part has chosen in recent days to aim his Campaign 2004 rhetoric directly at Bush as he has lapped his competitors, winning all but the South Carolina and Oklahoma delegate-selection contests.

His broadside against Bush came as Bush argued anew against any rollback in the tax cuts that Congress has passed at his behest.

Kerry's latest criticism of Bush came during a town hall meeting at Northcentral Technical College, where he toured the school's machine tool lab and posed for press pictures with students who engraved an 40-pound aluminum plaque with "Wisconsin Backs Kerry in 2004."

Kerry said the first step to repairing the economy is to repeal Bush's tax cuts for people who make more than $200,000.

Bush, appearing in Florida on a visit that the White House characterized as official business, told an audience at a window factory: "You hear people in Washington saying, 'Oh let's not make the tax cuts permanent.' When you hear somebody say that, they're saying 'We're gonna tax you. We're gonna raise your taxes'."

Bush didn't mention Kerry by name. But a spokesman for the president, Scott Stanzel, said, "Senator Kerry's pledge to raise taxes on Americans is precisely the wrong thing to do."

Kerry later campaigned with fellow Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, who recalled visiting the state during his brother's campaign in 1960.

"Do for him what you did for my brother," Kennedy told a packed gym at the University of Wisconisn-Green Bay. "He'll be a great president."

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