- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

District offices for some senators in states that President Bush has visited to sell his tax-cut proposal have seen a spike in constituent phone calls and e-mails, with most favoring the plan.

"We have seen an increase in the number of e-mails to our offices, pretty much overwhelmingly in favor of the president's tax-cut plan. It's definitely brought it home to the folks of the state," said Jon Lindgren, spokesman for Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican. Mr. Bush visited the state last week in an attempt to put pressure on the state's senior senator, Democrat Max Baucus.

In an event in Billings attended by more than 10,000 people Mr. Bush said: "Fine Americans all, starting with the senior member of the delegation, the senior senator, who is a man who's got enormous power in Washington. He's the kind of man who has got enough power that if he likes what I have to say, and you like what I have to say, I'm confident he'll get it done."

A man shouted: "Well, how 'bout it, Max?" drawing a sheepish grin from Mr. Baucus.

While Baucus spokesman Michael Siegel said district offices have seen "no appreciable change in the number of e-mails or calls from constituents," an aide for a Republican senator said the Montana Democrat is under some pressure. The former Texas governor beat former Vice President Al Gore by 25 percentage points there in the 2000 election.

"They really put him on the spot when that guy yelled out 'How 'bout it, Max?' " said the aide, who asked not to be identified.

Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters aboard Air Force One on the trip from Montana to Michigan that constituent pressure is important. "I think anytime you have 10,000, 12,000, of your constituents calling on you to do something, it's healthy and productive," he said.

Few Democrats returned calls seeking numbers on constituent contacts following a stop by the president. No numbers were available from the offices of Sen. Jean Carnahan, a Democrat from Missouri, where Mr. Bush traveled last week. The offices of Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, and Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, also failed to return calls requesting numbers.

But spokesmen for both of Maine's Republican senators centrists being courted by the president said the president's March 23 visit to Portland had an effect.

"We have experienced a slight surge in calls expressing support for the president," said Felicia Knight, spokeswoman for Sen. Susan Collins.

Said Dave Lackey, spokesman for Sen. Olympia J. Snowe: "Every headline in the state was talking about, you know, 'Bush makes tax case in Maine.' … It basically led on the front page of every daily … and it was very positive coverage."

Mr. Bush has added a new passage to the tax-cut speech he has delivered in more than 20 states since taking office seven weeks ago. In Billings, he said: "There's a lot of talk about the budget, and I found it's much better for me to take my case directly to the people."

He also began saying two or three weeks ago that he needs help getting his tax-cut proposal through Congress. On every stop, the president delivers a version of what he said last week in Kalamazoo, Mich.: "If you like what you hear, you're only an e-mail away from letting two senators know what you think."

While the result of Mr. Bush's call for constituent involvement is difficult to quantify, each state visit draws wall-to-wall coverage by the media.

"All television stations led with team coverage, and three of the four networks had the Bush speech live," Mr. Lackey said of the president's Portland stop. "The Portland Press-Herald views itself as center-left, and even they had a welcoming editorial to him," Mr. Lackey said. "The Bangor Daily News had a huge picture on Page One with a headline that said 'Bush wows Portland.' "

While neither Mr. Levin nor Michigan's other Democratic senator, freshman Debbie Stabenow, attended the Kalamazoo event, they could not have missed the deluge of media coverage.

The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, the state's largest newspapers, made the event top A1 stories, as did the tiny Michigan Daily, an Ann Arbor-based paper with a circulation of 18,000. The hometown paper, the Kalamazoo Gazette, featured an A1 photo of the president under the headline "Hello, Mr. President."

The Billings Gazette put out a "presidential commemorative edition" with a full-page photo on the front page and eight pages of coverage inside after the president's short visit there, noting that he "pressured Montana's Democratic Sen. Max Baucus to support his tax cut and budget plan."

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