Bush fights back with attack on war critics

President George Bush ramped up his campaign for re-election yesterday, defending his record and telling voters that he was the best choice to offer both security and prosperity.

Having been forced on to the defensive by the Democrats, Mr Bush sought to regain the initiative by hitting back at critics of the war in Iraq, his service record with the National Guard and his economic policies. A series of television ads will begin next week.

Mr Bush's message - most bullishly contained in a speech due to be delivered last night at a reception for Republican governors - marks a shift in the White House strategy, which had sought to keep the President out of the political fray for as long as possible. But with polls showing support for both Democratic candidates, John Kerry and John Edwards, surging and with Mr Bush's approval rating slipping, aides have decided it is time for him to make his case for re-election.

"He will take on his critics and their backward-looking, failed ideas that would derail our economic recovery and weaken our ability to fight and win the war on terror," said Mr Bush's campaign manager, Ken Mehlman. "The President is going to talk about the choice."