|Bush Touting Home Ownership in Pa.|
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - President Bush, hoping to move Pennsylvania to his win column in this year's election, is reaching out to voters in the state by touting record home ownership in America — a bright spot in the economy.
More than 68 percent of Americans own their own homes, and that record high flows seamlessly into Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda. It's part of his concept of an "ownership society," which promotes the idea of Americans owning their own homes, and owning and managing their own health care and retirement plans, small businesses and the like.
In a trip to Pennsylvania on Monday, his 26th as president, Bush planned to visit with a new homeowner, tour a housing development and participate in a discussion of home ownership at a YMCA in Ardmore, about 10 miles west of Philadelphia.
Bush has been promoting initiatives to close the gap between white and minority home ownership. While more than 75 percent of white Americans owned their own home in the fourth quarter of 2003, according to the Census Bureau, the rate among minority groups was 49 percent or less.
In December 2003, Bush signed the American Dream Down Payment Act. The act is designed to help families that can afford monthly mortgage payments but not the down payment or closing costs associated with buying a house. The legislation authorizes $200 million a year in down payment assistance to at least 40,000 low-income families.
Kerry campaign spokesman, Chad Clanton said the "American dream" has diminished under Bush's leadership. "In Pennsylvania, over 138,000 people have lost their manufacturing jobs, foreclosure and bankruptcies are up, and health care costs are skyrocketing," he said.
The president also has linked home ownership to national security — another key campaign issue — by saying that home ownership leads to economic security at home.
Bush, who lost Pennsylvania to Al Gore in 2000 — 50.6 percent to 46.4 percent — badly wants to win the state this year. If he loses Pennsylvania again, though, it won't hurt his campaign as hard as it did in 2000. Pennsylvania has 21 electoral votes this year, down from 23 four years ago because the state lost two House seats in reapportionment.