Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry this morning pledged that if elected, he’ll hold a rural summit in Ames in the first 100 days of his presidency. “I really look forward to rolling up my sleeves, getting out there into the farm country, talking to people, pulling them together,” Kerry says. “I don’t care whether it’s a good idea from a republican or a democrat, I just want good ideas to move America forward.” As you may recall, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore held a day-long rural summit in Ames back in April of 1995. Kerry says his event wouldn’t be a mere rehash of that event. Kerry says he wants to “really lay on the table” the challenges rural Americans. Kerry says he’ll use the summit to come up with an action plan to reinvigorate the rural economy and ensure the health and welfare of rural residents. Polls show Kerry trails Bush in rural areas. Kerry donned hunting gear in Ohio and now today he’s making an even more direct appeal to rural voters. Kerry says the rural folks he’s met feel frustration and anxiety about their jobs. In addition, Kerry says rising health care costs, transportation issues, poor cell phone coverage and lack of high-speed Internet access are all big stumbling blocks. “I believe President Bush has ignored these problems for four years,” Kerry says. “Rural households earn $11,600 less than urban households and families with the lowest incomes are concentrated in rural America. Almost a quarter of the people in rural America don’t have health insurance and the very livelihood of a lot of these people is dependent on small manufacturing and that’s been threated by the outsourcing of those kinds of jobs.” President Bush, who will be campaigning this afternoon in Council Bluffs and Davenport, often talks in his speeches about the booming farm economy. John Norris, a Kerry campaign spokesman, says Bush is offering rhetoric rather than results for farmers.”I think he’s confusing bumper crops with a strong economy,” Norris says.
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