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Bush returns to Florida

( -- For the first time since taking office, President Bush today returned to the state that put him over the top in the election after a bitter recount battle, and took a swipe at Democrats who are still criticizing his win in Florida.

The president hoped to use the trip to refocus on his efforts to reform the military. But Democrats cast the visit as a return to the scene of the crime, encouraged by another Florida newspaper survey released over the weekend suggesting Al Gore might have won the state had every partially punched ballot been counted.

Although Bush is only visiting Panama City, Democrats were rallying to remind Bush of the recount debacle in Tallahassee, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville and Orlando.

A TV ad criticizing "Bush fuzzy math," which seeks to link Bush's controversial victory in the state to his tax cut plan and to the proposed state budget of his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also aired today in Panama City and Tallahassee. It's a relatively small buy -- just $15,000 -- making it more of a publicity stunt than a sustained television campaign.

Bush Says Critics Are Living In The Past

Asked about the ad today while touring the home of an airman at Tyndall Air Force Base, where he was highlighting budget proposals for improving military housing and quality of life for the troops, Bush accused his critics of living in the past.

"Some of the Democrats here want to keep revoting the election, but if they would listen to America, they would find Americans want to move forward," Bush said.

The Palm Beach Post reported this weekend that the confusing design of ballots cost Gore more than 6,600 votes in Palm Beach County -- far more than he would have needed to overcome the 537-vote deficit that won the state, and the presidency, for Bush.

At Tyndall, Bush took a first-hand look at some of the base's military housing, 60 percent of which the White House says is substandard.

"I look forward to working with the Air Force on and base commanders all around the country to refurbish housing and build new housing," Bush said. "I do think we need for a troop to be able to house his family. That's an important part of building morale in the military."

(c) 2001

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