- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

TAMPA, Fla. With Election Day just 72 hours away, and the fate of his domestic agenda hanging in the balance, President Bush yesterday barnstormed across the South, stoking Republican supporters with fiery rhetoric bent on driving them to the polls in droves.
On the first leg of a campaign swing that will take him to 10 states in three days, the president pushed conservatives to persuade Democrats and independents to vote for Republican candidates including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
"Starting tomorrow, round up people and tell them to go to the polls Tuesday. Jeb is counting on you, and so am I," the president said.
"For the sake of Florida taxpayers, for the sake of Florida schoolchildren, for the sake of dignity and integrity in the office of governor, send Jeb Bush back to Tallahassee," the president told thousands of cheering Republicans here.
In a 12-hour sweep targeting what Mr. Bush called "the NASCAR vote," the president sought to shore up his brother's lead in the polls, hovering between six and 10 percentage points ahead of Democratic challenger Bill McBride.
Desperate to make good on a pledge to take back the Florida governorship, Democratic leaders have pulled out their big guns. Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to campaign today in south Florida for Mr. McBride, illustrating the importance party leaders place on the race.
Today, former Vice President Al Gore, who lost the presidency in Florida's disputed balloting two years ago, is to appear at events for congressional candidates. Tomorrow he will appear with Mr. McBride.
With the wounds of the 2000 presidential election still raw, Jeb Bush last night whipped up thousands of supporters packed into a hall at the University of South Florida.
"Bill Clinton is in the state," he yelled, drawing boos that grew in volume as he followed with: "Al Gore is in the state. Jesse Jackson is in the state. Al Sharpton is in the state."
The governor concluded by saying he doubted the four would have any impact on the election. "Multiply that by 50, and I will take one George W. Bush," he said.
The White House clearly hopes to hang onto the Florida governorship, with the president having traveled to the state 11 times since he took office.
Noting that some Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, view winning the Florida gubernatorial race as their top objective, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer yesterday told reporters, "It's not surprising they are going to roll out every gun they can to win in Florida."
The Associated Press reported that Mr. Clinton yesterday referred to the bungled 2000 presidential election at a Miami-Dade Community College, urging supporters to cast their ballot for Mr. McBride.
"If you don't vote this time because of what happened last time, it's like taking your vote away twice," Mr. Clinton said to a crowd of about 200 union members and black voters.
The Florida contest has turned ugly in recent days, with Mr. McBride's campaign accusing Jeb Bush of running "the most dishonest campaign in modern Florida history." Meanwhile, the governor's camp charged that Mr. McBride had misled voters on his spending plans.
Mr. Bush is hoping to hold off history by becoming just the third president in the past century not to suffer party losses in Congress during a midterm election. Republicans hold a slight lead in the House, 223-to-208, with one independent and three vacancies.
In the Senate, each party has 49 members, with one independent and one vacancy.
Should Mr. Bush defy history and make gains in Congress, Republicans will renew their efforts to push through the president's agenda currently stalled in the Senate including the proposed Department of Homeland Security, judicial appointments, an energy-policy overhaul, pension protections, a prescription-drug benefit and his faith-based initiative.
Earlier yesterday, Mr. Bush made stops in Tennessee and Georgia. In a Blountsville, Tenn., speech, Mr. Bush touted the qualifications of former presidential candidate Lamar Alexander, who challenged Mr. Bush for the 2000 nomination and now leads Democratic Rep. Bob Clement for the state's open Senate seat.
"For the sake of making sure the United States Senate and its important seats stay in the hands of a good, honest, capable senator, vote for Lamar Alexander," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush also said Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Van Hilleary is right for the job.
"He's a good, solid man. One of the reasons Hilleary is going to win is because he's going to win the NASCAR vote," the president said.
He said Republicans should seek to sway Democrats and independents before Election Day on Tuesday.
"Don't be afraid to talk up the story of Lamar and Van to Democrats. There's some discerning Democrats out there. They want good government, just like we do. They don't want higher taxes, just like we do.
"Find those independents that are open-minded and convince them that when you've got good ones, like Van and Lamar, we have a duty in America to support these good people," he said.
Mr. Bush also was in Georgia, stumping for Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss, who is locked in a tight race with incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland.
"Make no mistake about it, in this race, if you're interested in sending an ally to the president, that ally is Saxby Chambliss," Mr. Bush said.
Today, Mr. Bush flies to Springfield, Ill., where Republican Rep. John Shimkus is in a close race against Democratic Rep. David Phelps in a new seat created by redistricting. The president will also stop in Minnesota to help Republican Norm Coleman in his battle against former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, who was selected to replace Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone after the incumbent died in a plane crash last week.
Then it's on to Iowa, where Mr. Bush will hype Rep. Jim Leach, whose race is crucial to Republican hopes of keeping or extending their House majority.
The campaign swing five days in all, covering 17 cities in 15 states ends Tuesday, with Mr. Bush voting at his hometown polling spot, the Crawford Fire House, and then returning to Washington for election night.


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