A top aide to democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says the disproportionate number of rural Americans who’ve died while on military duty in Iraq is fueling doubts in rural areas about President Bush.John Norris of Ames was Kerry’s Iowa Caucus campaign manager and he’s now Kerry’s national field director. Norris says rural America has been a traditional conservative base for Bush and other republicans, but the war is “creating some doubt” in the minds of many rural residents. Norris says it was driven home to him recently when he visited his hometown of Red Oak, Iowa.Norris saw one of his high school buddies who just got back from serving a year in Iraq, and they talked about the other local folks who were with him — volunteer firemen, business leaders and others active in the community. Norris says when those sorts of community leaders are called away to active military duty, it makes the conflict seem much closer to home. Norris says the war is an issue “that’s under the surface” in rural American. As a way to reduce reliance on the part-time troops in National Guard units, Kerry has called for adding 40-thousand full-time troops to the military. Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle, a republican speaking on behalf of the Bush campaign, says President Bush has “heavy support” in rural areas where the “spirit of duty” to country is high. Nussle says Kerry is “desperately trying to catch-up” for his missteps regarding the war in Iraq, as he voted to authorize the use of force, then later voted against the money necessary to prosecute the war. Nussle says Kerry’s playing politics with a serious issue. Nussle says rural Americans are patriotic and support the President’s war on terrorism, and Kerry’s attempt will fall short. Nussle says polls show Kerry trails Bush when the public’s asked about national security issues, and that may make it difficult for Kerry to choose Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as a runningmate because Vilsack lacks national security or homeland security experience. Kerry’s campaign has reportedly told Vilsack and others who Kerry is considering as a runningmate to free up their schedules as early as Tuesday for an official announcement. Kerry will campaign in Iowa this weekend. He’ll arrive in Dubuque Saturday evening to watch the fireworks. He’ll spend Sunday in eastern Iowa, with stops in Independence, Cascade and Cedar Rapids.
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