Three banks robbed while Bush and Kerry are in town

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The Independent US

The separate presidential campaigns and very different visions of America of George Bush and John Kerry converged on the same Iowa town of Davenport yesterday.

The separate presidential campaigns and very different visions of America of George Bush and John Kerry converged on the same Iowa town of Davenport yesterday.

But the politicians were in large measure upstaged by local criminals who took advantage of police preoccupations with the candidates' security to stage no less than three separate bank robberies.

The two campaign events - an economic forum by the Democrat and an old-fashioned riverfront rally on the banks of the Mississippi by the President - took place virtually simultaneously three blocks apart. Apart from the three scheduled debates this autumn, it was as physically close as the White House rivals were likely to come before election day on November 2.

Both Mr Kerry and Mr Bush were after the same undecided voters in a town of 98,000, in a region of the state hit by factory closures and rising unemployment. But their sales pitches could not have differed more.

For the Massachusetts senator, the US in general, and Iowa in particular, were victims of economic mismanagement by the Bush administration. America had lost 1.8 million private sector jobs in the pas four years, "250,000 of them right here in Iowa," Mr Kerry declared. "John Edwards and I are going to put back in place fiscal responsibility, and we're going to run the federal government with the discipline you run your businesses," he told a 'summit' of local business leaders.

Mr Bush by contrast was all optimism, insisting that the economy was finally on the mend, creating new jobs and putting behind it the terrorist attacks of 2001. He claimed major successes not just in the "war on terror," but on the education and health care fronts at home.

They even differed in their acknowledgement of each other's presence. Mr Kerry jokingly invited Mr Bush to come and explain himself at the forum, but the President scarcely mentioned the man he never refers to by name, but only as "my opponent." Questioned as to what Mr Kerry was doing in Davenport, he tartly replied, "Ask him."

Unbeknown to the candidates however, some of their thunder was being stolen by bank robbers, who attacked three separate banks as massive police and secret service detachments guarded the Presidential contenders. Police said the three crimes did not appear to be co-ordinated, but were almost certainly timed to take advantage of the disruption caused by the candidates' presence.

Quite possibly, both men will be back. The almost simultaneous visits were only the latest of many to one of the most closely fought states in the country. In 2000, Al Gore carried Iowa and its seven electoral votes by just 4,000. Mr Bush believes he can capture it this time. Mr Kerry however must hang on to all the states won by Mr Gore, to have a chance of victory.

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