- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

President Bush, fighting a war and unable to make personal campaign appearances, has instead written a letter urging Virginians to vote for gubernatorial candidate Mark L. Earley and the rest of the Republican ticket on Nov. 6.
"Mark Earley, Jay Katzen and Jerry Kilgore are experienced leaders with a positive agenda to keep Virginia moving forward with lower taxes, better schools and more jobs," the president wrote. He also urged Virginians to vote in the elections as a way to "reaffirm our nation's commitment to Democracy."
The Earley campaign will begin mailing the letter tomorrow to hundreds of thousands of Virginia households, said campaign spokesman David B. Botkins. The decision of which households will receive the letter hasn't been made yet, but he said it will go to voters in every part of the state.
The president doesn't mention any of the Democrats in the race gubernatorial candidate Mark R. Warner, lieutenant governor candidate Tim Kaine or attorney general candidate A. Donald McEachin. But Mr. Bush does make reference to the ongoing debate over a sales tax referendum in Northern Virginia, arguing that taxes should be lowered, not raised.
A source close to the White House said the president also will write a similar letter for the Republican candidates in New Jersey, the only other state with a governor's race this year.
Mr. Earley was campaigning in Southside Virginia yesterday, while Mr. Warner held a rally at George Mason University and an evening fund-raiser with young professionals in Arlington.
The president endorsed Mr. Earley in a summertime Oval Office meeting, and had a fund-raising event scheduled for Northern Virginia in September, but that was canceled after the Sept. 11 attacks. The Earley campaign has featured the president in mailings and literature it has dropped at voters' homes, but was unable to reschedule the president's visit.
Politicos have been waiting to see whether Mr. Bush would try politicking while in the midst of fighting the war on terrorism.
He is trying to maintain bipartisan support, and is reportedly worried that could suffer if he campaigns. But he and Republicans also have to be tempted to make use of his strong popularity nationwide and in Virginia since Sept. 11. In Virginia, a Washington Post poll published this weekend showed the president with 84 percent approval 25 percent higher than in August.
Nobody knows whether Mr. Bush's popularity can translate into support for Mr. Earley and his running mates, but the Earley camp was optimistic the letter will help.
"It is a firsthand reminder to the individual voter when he gets that letter that President Bush is behind Mark Earley and the Republican ticket on November 6," Mr. Botkins said.
The Warner camp said the letter won't make much difference, if history is any indication.
"Obviously the president is very popular in Virginia, and especially in this time we are all standing behind the president, but Virginians have a history of separating their gubernatorial choice from national politics," said Mo Elleithee, a spokesman for Mr. Warner.
"I don't think it's that much of a surprise that the president would want to support his party's ticket, but in the end Virginians will decide this race on Virginia issues, and we are confident that on those issues like the budget mess, education, transportation Virginians will be siding with Mark Warner."
In 1990 during the first Bush presidency, the president stumped for Republican Clayton Williams in Texas, even as American troops were massing in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Williams lost anyway to Democrat Ann Richards.
In 1997 President Clinton stumped with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Donald S. Beyer Jr. in Alexandria just before the election, but Republican James S. Gilmore III cruised to an easy victory.

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