SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — President Bush campaigned in Mississippi yesterday for Haley Barbour, locked in a close race for governor, hailing him as a man of faith and values.
“I like the fact that Haley Barbour is a man of good values,” the president told a boisterous crowd of 9,000 in this affluent Mississippi suburb of Memphis, Tenn. “He honors his family. He treasures his relationship with the Almighty.” Mr. Bush drew one of the biggest cheers of the morning with the reference to God. “He believes in hard work. He believes everybody has worth. It’s these kind of values that are necessary to have in your statehouse here in Mississippi.”
Most polls show Mr. Barbour with a slight lead over the Democratic incumbent, Ronnie Musgrove.
Mr. Bush had just finished his speech and was waiting in his limousine inside the arena when a woman drove a car over a curb and into a side wall of the DeSoto Civic Center, about 40 yards from the entrance used by the president’s limousine.
Secret Service spokeswoman Ann Roman told reporters that, after interviewing the driver, Secret Service and Mississippi police concluded that the woman, who had no weapon, meant the president no harm. She was arrested for trespassing.
Secret Service agents and police swarmed over the gray Toyota Camry after it breached the security perimeter in the parking lot surrounding the civic center. The woman was taken into custody and led away with several children who were in the car with her. The crowd was kept inside the arena while police officers determined why the woman drove her car against the building.
A law-enforcement official, speaking to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, identified the driver as Betina Mixon, 29. Her residence was not immediately available.
Mr. Bush used his Mississippi visit to make a plea to voters about judges.
He has nominated U.S. District Court Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr., a Mississippian, to a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, but Senate Democrats last week blocked his nomination through a filibuster.
“I want to thank Senator [Thad] Cochran and Senator [Trent] Lott and, of course, Haley, for standing strong with a nominee I named from Mississippi, Charles Pickering,” he said. “I stand strong with Judge Pickering, and it’s time for some members of the United States Senate to stop playing politics with American justice.”
U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, a Republican who represents a northern Mississippi district, said that issue strongly motivates voters in the state. “Mississippians — Republican or Democrat, of all stripes — know Chip Pickering is highly qualified,” he said.
Mr. Musgrove and the state’s other Democratic leaders all support Judge Pickering’s nomination, but Republicans are counting on that filibuster to remind voters of the liberal stance of the national Democratic Party and persuade them them to punish Mississippi Democrats.
Mr. Musgrove, who was campaigning yesterday at the homecoming game at Jackson State University, said the governor’s race isn’t about the president’s visit.
“I’ve said from the very beginning — this race is not about who can put the most ads on television, or who’s got the most political friends,” he said. “This race is about leadership, setting priorities, and putting Mississippi first.”
The contrast between the two gubernatorial campaigns was stark yesterday.
Mr. Barbour’s event was a rally with dozens of local officials on stage, a mostly white crowd in the audience and a swarm of news reporters and photographers. Mr. Musgrove, meanwhile, made his low-key visit to a historically black college with few reporters, two members of his security detail and several staffers.
Mr. Musgrove delivered the Democratic response to the president’s weekly radio address yesterday, arguing that the Bush economic record of the first three years has been poor and contrasting it to his own record in Mississippi.
“Here, in today’s Mississippi, I have waged war against the impact of the national recession. We have worked hard here to create 56,000 new jobs,” he said. “Mississippi is one of only two Southeastern states to have a net gain in jobs last year.”
Mr. Bush campaigned later in the day in Kentucky with U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher, the Republican candidate for governor. He was then scheduled to return to make another appearance with Mr. Barbour along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Mr. Bush was expected to fly later to his ranch near Crawford, Texas.
Guy Taylor in Washington contributed to this article.
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