Live

Watch CBSN Live

Kerry Targets Southwest Voters

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, on the western leg of a coast-to-coast campaign tour, courted Hispanic and Native American voters in states that he hopes can give him a winning edge.

Kerry talked about health care, education and tribal rights through whistle-stops in New Mexico and Arizona. His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, sometimes added a few words in Spanish to the delight of the crowds.

Kicking off a late-night rally in Flagstaff, Kerry pledged to invest in Native American health care before a crowd gathered in a Heritage Square.

"If there's anything that sort of represents the fallen agenda and the confrontation with the truth in America, which is what elections are supposed to be about, it is what is happening to Native Americans in this country still," Kerry said.

The western trek marks the second half of the Democrat's visits to battleground states from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

President Bush, after a weekend at his parent's home in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he attended a family wedding and did some fishing, also faces a rigorous week of campaigning. He'll visit ten states over six days, from Virginia and Florida in the east, to California and Washington in the west.

CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller reports the Bush campaign is trumpeting that during stops in Florida, New Mexico and Arizona, the president will be accompanied by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the hope his demonstrated strength with swing voters can be transferred to candidate Bush.

The trip to Arizona is Kerry's third since the Democratic primary, evidence of a close battle with for Arizona's 10 electoral votes.

Recent polls show Arizona tilts slightly in Mr. Bush's favor, but Kerry's campaign said the growth in the state's Hispanic population could help shift the balance toward the Democrats.

With his rally Sunday night, Kerry was in essence saying he believes Arizona is in play, reports CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

Long known for having more cactuses then people, the demographic is changing. Arizona's population has gone up 2 million in the last 15f and is an increasingly independent minded crowd.

"Twenty-five percent of voters are independent. If you do well with the registered independent voters you're going to do well statewide," says Gov. Janet Napolitano, D-Ariz.

Conservative presidential candidate Barry Goldwater used to be the political face of Arizona, but Arizona State University professor David Berman says those days are long gone.

"You know every four years you almost have a new electorate because of the new people who come into the state," says Berman.

That explains Bill Clinton's win here in 1996, and Al Gore's loss in 2000. Arizona is now a battleground state with all that goes with it.

"Battleground means that both campaigns, both candidates, have to fight for that state's votes," says Napolitano.

If polls that show Kerry down by just three, and the crowd size at last night's rally are any indication, it's going to be one hot political season here.

Kerry also campaigned Sunday in New Mexico, addressing Native American health and tribal issues at a visit to an intertribal Native American ceremony, set under towering red cliffs in Gallup, N.M., near the largest American Indian population in the Southwest.

More than half of New Mexico's population is either Hispanic or Native American. Some of the tribal leaders boarded Kerry's train for a discussion about Native American issues.

Kerry is looking for Native Americans to vote in large numbers and give him an edge over Mr. Bush for New Mexico's five electoral votes. Al Gore won the state four years ago by 366 votes, the closest margin of any of the 50 states.