- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

ST. CHARLES, Mo. With just hours left in Campaign 2002, President Bush yesterday wielded his considerable clout in one of the handful of states that will determine the makeup of the Senate and the fate of the president's stalled domestic agenda.

Stepping into a race that polls show is dead even perhaps the closest in the country the president made a pitch for former Republican Rep. Jim Talent in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan, a political novice appointed to her husband's seat upon his death two years ago.

"We're not undecided," Mr. Bush, traveling with the first lady on her 56th birthday, told thousands of supporters gathered at an arena outside St. Louis. "For the good of Missouri, for the good of the United States of America, Jim Talent is the man for Senate."

As he has throughout his five-day, 15-state campaign sweep, Mr. Bush pushed supporters to "turn out the vote."

"Gather up Republicans, discerning Democrats, like-minded independents and get them to the polls," he said, echoing the belief of election analysts that turnout will be the key factor in whose side wins.

The president, in front of a partisan, whooping crowd, bashed the Senate for stalling his agenda, which includes the proposed Department of Homeland Security, judicial appointments, an energy-policy overhaul, pension protections, a prescription-drug benefit and his faith-based initiative.

With the Senate tied 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats, one independent and one vacancy Mr. Bush said he needs some "allies" in the Senate.

"The Senate has done a lousy job on my nominees" for the federal judiciary, he said.

"That's what I'm looking for, some allies. Somebody we can count on to do the right thing for America. Somebody's whose vote we can count on," he said to cheers.

With Mrs. Carnahan hammering Mr. Talent, who in turn has accused the incumbent of dirty politics, Mr. Bush said the Republican "has brought dignity to this campaign. He's not going to fall prey to the same old tired politics of tearing somebody down to get ahead.

"He is a breath of fresh air, and believe me, we need some breaths of fresh air in Washington, D.C."

Without directly criticizing Mrs. Carnahan qualifications for the Senate, Mr. Bush said the four-term representative is "an accomplished man" who wrote the Welfare Reform Bill.

The latest poll in Missouri showed each candidate with 46 percent. The 6 percent "undecided" break evenly when asked who they are leaning toward. Two percent of voters favor other candidates.

Mrs. Carnahan has never faced election, having been appointed to her seat after her husband, Mel, died in a plane crash just days before the 2000 congressional elections. Voters selected the late Mr. Carnahan over now-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Critics say Mrs. Carnahan is an intellectual lightweight who takes her orders from Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. Some say she is unqualified to serve in the Senate and her short time in office has hurt Missourians.

Democrats have pulled out the big guns for her campaign. Mr. Daschle joined Mrs. Carnahan here in a get-out-the vote rally over the weekend.

"This election may be one of the most important in history," shouted Mr. Daschle to the mostly black crowd near downtown St. Louis.

When she took the stage, the quiet, reserved Mrs. Carnahan said, "This is going to be a struggle this time."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Hollywood stars in Los Angeles last month to raise money for Mrs. Carnahan. In the first half of October, she collected $1 million, while Mr. Talent got just $112,000.

Much younger and with more flair, Mr. Talent has used television commercials to stress that "experience matters," hitting at what some analysts believe is Mrs. Carnahan's weak spot.

The Missouri race holds the prospect of immediately altering the Senate's makeup even before newly alected senators are sworn in Jan. 6. Because Mrs. Carnahan was appointed rather than elected, if Mr. Talent were to win, he would immediately be sworn in.

Mr. Bush began his day in Iowa, stumping for Rep. Greg Ganske, challenger Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin in a race that analysts saying is leaning heavily toward the incumbent. The president then flew on to Arkansas to boost Sen. Tim Hutchinson against challenger David Pryor.

Mr. Bush ended his day at a political rally in Dallas for GOP Senate hopeful John Cornyn before flying home to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he will vote today.

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