SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) – President Bush asked his supporters Saturday to pray for Hurricane Charley victims and announced that he will visit Florida to survey the damage.

“Tomorrow I’m going to travel down to Florida to visit with those who lives were hurt by Hurricane Charley,” Bush said at a re-election rally in this swing state. “I wanted them to know that our federal government is responding quickly to provide aid.” Federal officials are on the ground working with state and local officials, he said.

“Many lives have been affected by this hurricane, and I know you join me in sending our prayers to those people who look for solace and help.”

Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, meanwhile, decided against going to Florida. “We don’t want to get in the way of imminent recovery efforts,” said spokeswoman Allison Dobson.

Bush spoke at the end of a five-day campaign swing that started in Florida on Tuesday and brought him to Redmond, Wash., Friday night.

The storm had blown into North Carolina by the time he spoke here, but Bush chose not to head straight to Florida.

Instead, he stayed in Iowa a bit longer and gave his standard stump speech in a state he narrowly lost in 2000 and has aggressively courted for 31/2 years. Saturday was his 14th trip to the state as president and his second this month.

Bush was the first sitting president to visit Sioux City in 14 years, said campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel. Vice President Dick Cheney campaigned here in June, Stanzel said.

The president’s 25th trip to Florida on Sunday could also boost his bid to win the state that decided the 2000 presidential election. Bush was quick to declare a major disaster in the state Friday, ordering federal aid for the recovery effort just two hours after Charley struck.

“The president wants to take a firsthand look at damage from Charley and make sure people affected by Charley are getting the assistance they need,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Saturday.

McClellan could not offer details about the trip, such as which parts of Florida he would visit, what the schedule would be or whether his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, would join him.



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.