- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

President Bush, watching election returns on television in the White House residence, last night savored early Republican victories, dialing up winners including brother Jeb, who won re-election as governor handily in Florida.

Traveling thousands of miles and raising millions of dollars for Republican candidates in crucial races in the weeks before Election Day, the president's grass-roots politicking along with his record-high approval rating among Americans appeared to pay off last night.

Among the Republican Senate winners, Mr. Bush called were Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine and John Cornyn of Texas.

Mr. Bush had hit all of those states in the final days before Election Day.

But his first call went to his brother, who appeared to falter with just weeks to go in the Florida gubernatorial election, but rebounded and soundly defeated Democratic challenger Bill McBride.

"The president is delighted," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said last night. "He views this as a big huge victory and is very proud of his brother."

The president also called to congratulate Katherine Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who certified Mr. Bush's victory in that state in 2000. She won a House seat.

Nearly every state where Mr. Bush appeared in the waning days of Campaign 2002 went Republican, illustrating the power of the president's popularity.

But none was more sweet than Florida, where Mr. Bush had campaigned a dozen times and raised millions of dollars for his brother.

Jeb Bush appreciated the high-profile help, telling Fox News last night: "He came down and helped his little brother, and I was very thankful."

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Bush zigzagged across the country, ending this week after a five-day, 15-state campaign trip, which capped a frenetic, yearlong effort that took the president to some 40 states to raise record-shattering sums for his party.

He focused on races in the Senate, where Democrats hold a one-seat advantage. Mr. Bush wants a GOP majority in order to advance the proposed Department of Homeland Security, judicial appointments, an energy-policy overhaul, pension protections, a prescription-drug benefit and his faith-based initiative all stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Mr. Bush and first lady Laura, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, dined on beef tenderloin last night with Republican congressional leaders and their wives including House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot.

They then settled in for a night of election returns, with frequent updates from senior adviser Karl Rove.

The president began his day early, voting at his hometown precinct in Crawford, Texas presumably a straight, party-line vote for state Republicans. But to reporters' questions, he was noncommittal about the prospect of the GOP holding the House or picking up seats in the Democrat-controlled Senate

Early this morning, Republicans appeared to be holding the majority in the House, where they had just a six-vote margin. It would be the first time since 1962 that the party controlling the White House lost fewer than five seats in a midterm election.

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