CINCINNATI -- President Bush raised money for the Republican Party and promoted his agenda of compassionate conservatism yesterday as he and his Democratic rival focus on a key state in their battle for the White House.
On his 18th presidential trip to Ohio, Bush promoted his $1.5 billion proposal to offer premarital counseling to parents on welfare.
"I think one of the smartest things we can do is to encourage families" by spending money on grants to states, faith-based organizations, and community-based groups that "teach people what it means to be in a successful marriage," Bush told supporters at an alcohol and drug addiction services center.
Bush's Healthy Marriage Initiative is part of welfare reform legislation stalled in the Senate.
"It's stuck" and "there's too much politics in Washington on this," said Bush. "Congress needs to get the welfare bill to my desk. It's a bill that will encourage work. It will encourage compassionate programs."
The proposal, which the White House developed in close consultation with conservative groups, ties the concept of healthier marriages to reducing drug use and other problems.
About 40 protesters, some carrying signs that said, "Bush You're Fired" and "Outsource Bush," demonstrated outside ADAS center, where the president spoke. Among them were Sierra Club members, who objected to Bush's environmental policies. Two women supported Bush and held antiabortion signs that read, "Save the unborn."
Senator John F. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, campaigned last week in Ohio, promoting a proposed federal program that would pay to keep schools open until early evening to help working parents. Kerry also raised $2 million at two events in Cincinnati and Columbus.
A Kerry spokesman, Phil Singer, said yesterday Bush has had more than three years to focus on the problems of families, saying he "looked the other way" while health costs, gasoline prices, and other household expenses hit record highs.
Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken added in a statement: "What President Bush should realize, but does not, is that the single biggest factor in keeping families together is stability -- a job, decent and affordable health care, and a quality education."