President Prepares for Convention

8-19-04 - CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) President Bush is back at his Texas ranch taking a pre-convention break from the campaign trail.

The president's been stumping nearly non-stop in the three weeks since the Democratic convention. But Wednesday night, he wrapped up a bus trip through Wisconsin and Minnesota with a big rally in St. Paul, then flew home to Crawford.

Aides say he plans to stay at Prairie Chapel Ranch 'till the middle of next week.

Bush is meeting Monday with defense chiefs. He'll also be mulling electoral strategy and polishing the acceptance speech he'll give at the GOP convention two weeks from tonight.

But mostly, aides say, Bush will be recharging his batteries for the two-month election stretch drive.

Meanwhile, democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is tying together two of the country's biggest problems: job losses and rising health care costs and blaming President Bush for both.

Kerry plans to promote his plans to counter health costs in a speech Thursday to the International Association of Fire Fighters convention in Boston and during one of his "front-porch visits" at a home in Derry, New Hampshire.

His campaign commissioned a study that says high health care costs are a key reason for the weak job market. The study says businesses that pay more for health insurance have to pay more for workers.

Kerry says the president hasn't done anything to reduce health costs.

Bush's campaign says the president has a plan to cut health care costs, which are rising at 60 billion to 100 billion dollars annually. But the campaign says Kerry and running mate John Edwards, both senators, are among those standing in the way. Bush favors caps on medical malpractice claims.