George Bush declared Saturday that he would win both the South and the Southwest, despite concentrated efforts in the region by the new Democratic team and despite a current shortage of campaign funds that he called troublesome.
Standing on the bank of the drought-depressed Mississippi River, the Republican vice president proclaimed, "If we are successful in getting the truth out there, they (Democrats) will be unsuccessful in drawing the traditional Southern Democrats and Southwest Democrats back into the fold."I have to help get the truth out there," he added. Both regions went solidly for the Reagan-Bush ticket in both 1980 and 1984.
The "truth," the prospective GOP presidential nominee said, is his "major philosophical differences with Michael Dukakis," who he called a "traditional liberal."
However, Bush said he does not see similar differences with Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas. He said he agrees with Bentsen on most issues.
Addressing a law enforcement group later in Tampa, Fla., Bush reiterated his call for stricter enforcement of drug laws and for the death penalty for drug "kingpins."
"We've heard a lot of tough talk about drugs from the liberals in Congress, but when are we going to see some tough action?" Bush asked. "We need more money for prisons and prosecutors. And we need tougher penalties for criminals."
Bush also said congressional cutbacks in the Coast Guard budget amounted to "criminal negligence."
At an airport news conference in Tampa, Bush said the bump in the polls Dukakis got from the Democratic convention had served to keep in the position of underdog.
But, he said, "I like being behind . . . I like fighting back. I remember Iowa."
Bush is on a two-day campaign swing through the South and Southwest to regain momentum lost to the Democrats during their convention. Democrats are expected to make a major effort to win back the region, beginning with heavy campaigning by Dukakis and Bentsen.
The Democratic candidates were traveling together in California Saturday, before flying to Minot, N.D., for an appearance at the state fair.
The vice president was to address a law enforcement convention in Tampa, Fla., late Saturday and to campaign in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sunday.
However, the Bush campaign has all but used up the entire $27 million it is permitted in pre-convention spending. Bush has only been able to travel in recent days by coupling campaign events with GOP fund-raising events.