- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

AUBURN, Ala. President Bush yesterday swept across the South intent on making the difference for Republicans in a handful of close congressional races.
The president started early, delivering a speech before 10 a.m. in Charlotte, N.C., in which he touted the Senate candidacy of Elizabeth Dole, who is leading a tightening contest against Democrat Erskine Bowles to replace the retiring Republican, Sen. Jesse Helms.
"There is no question in my mind she is the right person for the job for North Carolina," Mr. Bush said to cheers from about 2,000 supporters gathered in a sports arena.
He then raced to Columbia, S.C., to hype the candidacies of Rep. Lindsey Graham, seeking to replace that state's retiring Republican senator, Strom Thurmond, and of gubernatorial candidate Mark Sanford in his bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges.
"There's no question in my mind that if you're interested in the state of South Carolina, and if you're interested in the future of this state, you need to have Mark Sanford as the next governor," he said to supporters gathered in an airport hangar.
A few hours later, Mr. Bush touted Rep. Bob Riley, bidding to becoming Alabama's next governor, and Mike Rogers, a state lawmaker running for the U.S. House.
Mr. Bush hopes to help Republicans retain their hold on the 435-member House, where they have a seven-seat advantage. The president is also trying to tip the balance in the Senate, where Democrats hold 50 seats and Republicans 49, with one independent.
Up for grabs are 36 governorships as well.
Mr. Bush finished the day at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, where he will host Chinese President Jiang Zemin for lunch and talks today. Mr. Jiang has made clear his desire to visit the ranch before he steps down next year as the leader of the communist country.
"The president is looking forward to the meeting. President Jiang is looking forward to riding in the pickup truck," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Mr. Jiang, speaking at a banquet in Houston yesterday, said: "We will have an in-depth exchange of views again on bilateral ties and the international situation. I'm confident that the meeting will generate positive results and help move forward our relationship."
The two leaders are expected to talk at length about North Korea, which last week announced it had continued a nuclear-weapons program in violation of a 1994 pact with the United States.
"We need to see what common strategies we can employ to try and get the North Koreans to live up to their international obligations, to recognize that they cannot, on the one hand, say that they want to re-enter the international community and on the other hand, brandish an illegal nuclear-weapons program that is in clear violation of international obligations that they undertook," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said of the Bush-Jiang talks.
Over the weekend, the pair will travel to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to meet with nearly two dozen Pacific Rim leaders. There, Mr. Bush will pull aside key allies Mexican President Vicente Fox, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung for separate meetings on what to do about Iraq and North Korea.
On Sunday, Mr. Bush returns to the campaign trail, visiting Phoenix for a political event. The following day, he plans stops in Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois before returning to the White House.

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