Final Day: Bush Races Through Key States

Times Staff Writers

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — By helicopter, motorcade and jumbo jet, President Bush dashed from one battleground state to another today in a final push to collect the votes he needs to win reelection.

With national polls showing the race deadlocked and its outcome likely to rest on small numbers of votes in crucial precincts, the president's aim was to visit as many swing states as possible in a single day. He started in Ohio and was visited Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with headed for Iowa and New Mexico before ending the day with a rally in his home state of Texas.

"This is a seven-stop day, because I want to continue telling the people what I intend to do to protect them, and how I intend to put policies in place to make sure America is a hopeful place," Bush told reporters on the tarmac in Pittsburgh before heading to a rally in Burgettstown, Pa.

Bush started the day — his last on the campaign trail as president campaigning for himself — by arriving with all the pomp and circumstance of the presidency at a rally in an airplane hangar in Wilmington, Ohio. Framed by the hangar's open door, the president's white-topped Marine One helicopter came to a rest in full view of the crowd as the theme from "Top Gun" blared from loudspeakers dangling from the ceiling.

"In a new term I will keep pro-growth, pro-small business, pro-farmer policies in place," Bush promised his supporters moments later. "I will defend your deepest values and I will work every day to make sure your families are safe. You can count on me."

The president was introduced in Wilmington, and later in Burgettstown, Pa., by a surprise guest: Red Sox ace pitcher Curt Schilling, who led him team in the World Series last week. Schilling had created a stir in the wake of that victory by first endorsing the president and then backing out of a joint appearance with Bush in Manchester, N.H. It was not immediately clear why Schilling apparently changed his mind again.

After lauding his team's success, Schilling told the Ohio crowd that "I'm even more proud to be on a team with an even more important mission. That team is going to reelect President George W. Bush."

Bush thanked Schilling for his support.

"Everybody knows him as a great pitcher," Bush said. "I know him as a great husband, a great dad, and a man of great character. He's a champion on the field, and he's a champion off the field."

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