The Boone County Fairgrounds became a national political battleground Tuesday as President Bush delivered a campaign speech that highlighted health care and the war on terrorism to a supportive crowd of about 15,000.
The president arrived at the fairground just after 3:30 p.m. in a red-white-and-blue campaign bus. His appearance followed speeches by numerous Missouri Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt and Ninth District U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who introduced the president.
Surrounded by signs saying “Leadership for the Heartland” and a podium adorned with tan horse saddles and western prints, Bush reiterated the themes of his convention speech, including job creation, strong leadership in the war on terrorism and improving health care through tort reform.
“These frivolous lawsuits against our docs are making it harder for good doctors to practice medicine, and they’re running up the cost of your health care,” Bush said.
Bush also introduced a plan to reform the federal tax code, which he called a “complicated mess” and a “drag on our economy.”
The loyal crowd, armed with Bush/Cheney signs and pompoms, broke out into cheers of “four more years,” at numerous breaks in the speech.
Though Bush never mentioned Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry by name, he nonetheless took a few jabs at the man he consistently referred to as “my opponent.”
Specifically, Bush criticized what he sees as Kerry’s ever-changing position on the war in Iraq after Kerry initially voted to authorize the war.
“And then in the last two days he woke up with yet another new position,” Bush said. “And this one isn’t even his own. It’s the one of Howard Dean.”
The visit, guarded heavily by local law enforcement agencies and the Secret Service, caused traffic backups along both U.S. 63 and Interstate 70.
Bush’s late afternoon rally here capped off a day of campaigning throughout Missouri that included stops at a high school in Lee’s Summit and the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. He also appeared in Poplar Bluff on Monday.