- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

BALTIMORE President Bush last night gave a glowing endorsement to Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. at a fund-raising event that generated about $1.8 million for the Maryland Republican's gubernatorial campaign.
"He will be elected. He's smart and he's compassionate. His record shows he is compassionate," Mr. Bush said of the U.S. congressman. "Bob Ehrlich is someone who is tough when it comes to the budget, but who is compassionate when it comes to helping people who need help."
In his 35-minute speech to an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,100 in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency, Mr. Bush praised Mr. Ehrlich's leadership skills and commitment to education, noting the support Mr. Ehrlich has received from some Democrats and saying the candidate has a "positive vision" for the state.
Ehrlich campaign officials, who had expected the Bush event to generate $1.5 million, said last night's dinner and reception with the president is the most successful one-night fund-raiser in Maryland history. More than 1,000 people paid $1,250 each to hear Mr. Bush speak at the dinner, and about 100 paid $4,000 each to attend the private reception.
The fund-raiser's goal was to help close the approximately $2.3 million gap between Mr. Ehrlich's war chest and that of Democratic nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has drawn on her national Democratic allies to break fund-raising records in the state.
The most recent campaign finance reports, filed Aug. 30 with the Maryland State Board of Elections, showed that Mrs. Townsend raised a record $6.77 million to Mr. Ehrlich's $4.49 million. At that time, before either candidate began running TV ads, the lieutenant governor had outspent Mr. Ehrlich by nearly $1 million $2.24 million versus $1.35 million.
"I'm here because he's someone who unites this state, not divides it," Mr. Bush told the crowd, which he urged to take an active role in getting out the vote for Mr. Ehrlich. "You have got to talk it up between now and Election Day."
Mr. Ehrlich, who introduced the president, said he and Mr. Bush share several beliefs, such as holding teachers accountable for student performance and creating an economic environment that creates jobs and opportunities for everyone.
"We both want to break a cycle of corruption and arrogance [in government]," Mr. Ehrlich said, reiterating a campaign theme that 30 years of Democratic leadership have tainted Maryland's political culture.
The last Republican governor elected in the state was Spiro T. Agnew in 1964.
Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton is expected to attend a fund-raiser for Mrs. Townsend on Oct. 18, two days after his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, attends an event for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
After a meeting with Maryland trade representatives in Bethesda yesterday morning, Mrs. Townsend announced the former president's backing. "President Clinton will raise money with me," she said, adding she is a "fan" of Mr. Clinton.
A poll released Tuesday showed Mrs. Townsend leading Mr. Ehrlich, 45 percent to 43 percent, a statistical dead heat within the survey's 3.5-point margin of error. In March, Mrs. Townsend led in the polls by 15 percentage points.
Last night, Mr. Bush credited Mr. Ehrlich with voting for the corporate reform legislation, which the president called the most significant reform enacted since President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office.
Mr. Bush also used the occasion to defend his tax cut, saying it helped soften the recession by injecting dollars into the sagging economy. "The tax cut came at the exact right time," he said, adding that he called on the Senate to make the cut permanent, rather than allow it to expire in 10 years.
Other national issues addressed by the president included a call for the Senate to create a Department of Homeland Security and to pass a bill that would require companies to insure against terrorist acts. He also called on the United Nations to support forcing Iraq to eliminate all its weapons of mass destruction.
Before last night's event, about 100 protesters rallied against the impending war on Iraq outside the Inner Harbor hotel.
Earlier yesterday, Mrs. Townsend had asked her supporters not to attend the rally and to "show the appropriate level of respect for a president visiting our state."
The anti-war protesters said they were not affiliated with the Townsend campaign.

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