GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush, refusing to cede any territory in the presidential election, stormed through the battleground state of Kentucky on Saturday in hopes of reversing past Republican losses.
On a five-day trek to the party convention in Philadelphia, Bush was bent on not repeating the defeat of Republican nominees Bob Dole in 1996 and his father, former President George Bush, in 1992, to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in six states considered key to winning the White House.
"Throughout this tour, by visiting states that have not voted Republican in the last two elections, we're saying we're not ceding any territory," said Communications Director Karen Hughes.
On a campaign stop in Owensboro, Kentucky, Bush said he doesn't want to be president just for the sake of holding the office, but rather "to lead Americans in new directions."
CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker, who was traveling with Bush, said the Texas governor's only reference to beleaguered running mate Dick Cheney, who was not with him on Saturday, was to praise him.
"I'm proud of my running mate, I'm proud to call him a friend, and you will be proud to call him vice president of the United States," Bush said.
In what sounded like a preview of his acceptance speech, the Texas governor spoke in optimistic terms about the country's future, rebuilding the military and protecting Social Security for retirees.
"I see a time in America when this great American Dream extends its reach throughout society," Bush told hundreds of supporters in an airplane hangar here. "I don't want to just hold the office. I want to lead Americans in new directions."
Not once during this speech did Bush criticize Democratic presidential rival Al Gore or President Clinton, keeping his promise for a positive party convention next week in Philadelphia.
And to the elderly in the crowd, Bush urged them not to believe Democrats' claims that he would use surplus funds to cut taxes for the wealthy instead of safeguarding Social Security. He also pledged to strengthen the morale and power of the U.S. military.
"I want the elderly here in this audience to hear me loud and clear. Don't be fooled by that kind of politics where they're going to get on your TV screen and try to scare you," he said. "George W. Bush will keep the promise to the elderly in America."
The Texas governor began his convention countdown tour Friday, visiting Arkansas, Clinton's home state. He and Cheney used their visit to launch a partisan attack on Clinton and, by proxy, Gore.
Both pledged to restore honor and integrity to the White House and vowed to return to Americans "a government they can be proud of."
That brought a sarcastic retort from Clinton who suggested Bush was a spoiled rich kid whose "daddy was president" and a "compassionate conservative" in name only.
"Near as I an tell, the message of the Bush campaign is just that, 'I mean how bad could I be? I've been governor of Texas, my daddy was president. I own a baseball team. They like me down there,' " Clinton told a fund-raiser Friday.
Clinton mockingly mimicked Bush saying, "Everything is rocking along hunky-dory. Their fraternity had it (the presidency) for eight years, give it to ours for eight years, because we're compassionate and humane and we're not like what you think about us from watching the Congress for the last five years."
Bush aides said Clinton's unusually acerbic attack reflected Democratic concern about the success of the Republican candidate's message and his campaign.