- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

Virginia Republicans have all but given up hope that President Bush will campaign for Mark L. Earley before the Nov. 6 election.
In deciding not to attend a Republican Governors Association fund-raising event in Washington tonight, Mr. Bush has signaled that he wants to stay above the political fray while waging the war on terrorism. That, Republicans say, probably ends the chances of his making a campaign appearance in Virginia.
"I'm still hopeful, but not counting on it. After all, they are fighting a war," said Christopher LaCivita, a senior adviser to the Earley campaign.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, national and local parties and campaigns suspended political activities. In Virginia, Mr. Bush canceled a fund-raiser planned for later that month in McLean, and Vice President Richard B. Cheney canceled a fund-raiser scheduled in Richmond a few days after the attacks. Mr. Cheney will attend the RGA event tonight in Mr. Bush's stead.
Virginia Republican officials had held out hope they could arrange for Mr. Earley to attend some event at which the president was also appearing in Virginia. But with the president's every move being scrutinized now, they realized that even an impromptu campaign appearance could jeopardize the bipartisan support he has received.
Republicans had good reason to hope Mr. Bush's appearance could help Mr. Earley overcome a slight lead held by Democrat Mark R. Warner in the polls.
In a Mason-Dixon poll last week, half of Virginians surveyed rated the president's job performance as excellent, and 36 percent rated it as good. The 86 percent approval rating is nearly 30 points higher than his approval rating in August.
Some Republican strategists think that a presidential appearance, built on the momentum Mr. Earley has gotten on the tax issue, would seal a victory for Mr. Earley. One strategist said it would be an "elbow drop" on Mr. Warner's campaign.
Others say presidential popularity doesn't transfer as easily in an off-year election. But even those folks say an appearance by the president would raise Mr. Earley's profile and help him break through wall-to-wall coverage of the strikes in Afghanistan and the anthrax threat.
Even without a presidential visit, Republicans have made sure Mr. Bush is a presence in the campaign.
The party has distributed hundreds of thousands of brochures featuring the president and Mr. Earley together. The campaign also is sending out an article about Mr. Bush's endorsing Mr. Earley to voters who have requested absentee ballots.
In endorsing him during a summer meeting at the White House, the president said he supported Mr. Earley because of the Republican's commitment to cutting taxes and focusing on education.
New Jersey is the only other state to hold a gubernatorial election this year, and Republican candidate Bret Schundler had also hoped Mr. Bush could help him close a double-digit gap by which he trails Democrat Jim McGreevey.
Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr. Schundler said they wouldn't comment on what plans they had or do have for a Bush appearance.

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