- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 2, 2002

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) President Bush campaigned in three states yesterday for Republican candidates linked to him by political ads, a nickname and even an old family feud, underscoring the importance of Tuesday's elections to his presidency.

Barnstorming airport hangars and convention centers four days before the elections, Mr. Bush urged voters to back Republican candidates because they stand "squarely with the president." He has shattered fund-raising records and kept an intensive campaign schedule, putting his political stature on the line.

If Republicans lose ground to Democrats, the results will raise questions about his political potency. If the Republican Party does well, the president's agenda and 2004 re-election campaign stand to prosper with a friendlier Congress.

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush campaigned for Rep. George W. Gekas, who hopes to defeat Democratic Rep. Tim Holden with the slogan of, "Let THIS George W help THAT George. W." Despite the familiar nickname, Mr. Gekas is one of the Republicans' most vulnerable incumbents.

In New Hampshire, Mr. Bush came to the aid of Rep. John Sununu in a tight Senate race against Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Mr. Sununu's father was chief of staff to Mr. Bush's father until being fired. The elder Mr. Sununu received that news from the boss' son, George W. Bush.

Bad blood aside, Mr. Bush joked about the elder Sununu at the Portsmouth event, calling him "the old governor" and telling the crowd, "He's still looking pretty spry for an old fellow."

As the laughter subsided, a smiling Mr. Bush said, "Don't tell him I said that."

The president's last stop yesterday was Kentucky, where he hoped to help Rep. Anne Northup fend off challenger Jack Conway. Mrs. Northup has touted her ability to bring federal money home to the district, and one of her campaign ads shows Mr. Bush praising her at a campaign rally.

Typical of presidential rallies all year, the candidates stayed close to Mr. Bush's side.

As a crowd of several thousand waved red-white-and-blue pompons and chanted, "U-S-A, U-S-A" Mrs. Northup introduced Mr. Bush as "our leader, who is going to keep America the greatest country in the world."

Mr. Gekas introduced him in Pennsylvania as "a man who has reached across the aisle, has reached across the oceans" to defend freedom against terrorism.

"Bush has put more political capital in this midterm, in terms of time and energy and policy decisions, than any other president in history," said Joe Lockhart, press secretary in the Clinton White House.

Former President Bill Clinton, who rivaled Mr. Bush in fund-raising and political activity, was widely held accountable when Democrats lost control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections. Months after that campaign, Mr. Clinton was still questioning his own relevancy as president.

Mr. Bush hopes to help Republicans erase the Democratic Party's one-vote majority in the Senate while retaining the Republican's slim grip on the House. With 36 governor races nationwide, Republicans may no longer control a majority of the statehouses after Tuesday.

"We know he's going to take some lumps in the governors' races," Mr. Lockhart said.

Republican counter that Mr. Bush deserves credit for galvanizing the party, even if the Republican Party loses ground. And they argue that a status quo election no major Republican gains or losses would be a victory, because the party in charge of the White House historically loses congressional seats during midterm elections.

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