- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

NEW YORK — Some senatorial candidates are fully embracing President Bush at the convention this week, saying that supporting him will help their campaigns and the Republican Party gain seats in the U.S. Senate.

This is in stark contrast with some Democratic Senate candidates who did not attend their party’s convention to witness the nomination of Sen. John Kerry for president.

“These candidates are very proud to be running with President Bush rather than running from him,” said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Republican National Senatorial Committee.

Mr. Allen introduced several Senate candidates during a press conference at the Essex House hotel. Democrats said they found this message amusing.

“George Allen is trying to spin gold out of yarn when he says there are not Republicans out there worried about Bush’s standing in the electorate,” said Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “That’s clearly not the case.”

Mr. Woodhouse said many Republican candidates have tried to distance themselves from the president.

That is not happening in traditionally Democratic California, where Bill Jones is trying to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer. Mr. Jones said that he adamantly supports the president and that Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would benefit from having a Republican in the Senate.

“California is back, and when California is back, it’s back with a roar,” Mr. Jones said after the press conference. “I’m pleased to be able to be here strongly supporting President Bush.”

Mr. Allen said Mr. Jones can benefit from the governor’s popularity.

“California has an opportunity to really be turning around,” he said. “It’s a completely new dynamic.”

The Republicans yesterday said Mr. Bush’s appeal is so great that even some Democrats are embracing him.

John Thune, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, criticized the senator for his campaign commercial that depicts him hugging Mr. Bush. Mr. Thune said the incumbent must be desperate if he is using the president’s image.

“It shows me that his political situation in South Dakota has become very difficult,” he said.

Mr. Allen added that the Republican National Committee has asked Mr. Daschle to stop airing the ad.

“To be using someone who is not really for you to try and finagle or fool people, I think it’s wrong and unethical,” he said.

Although he wouldn’t handicap the November races, Mr. Allen said he is confident that the Republicans are “clearly going to expand our majority.”

“We’re going to pick up seats,” he said. “Whether we pick up a couple, whether we pick up three, we are going to pick up seats.”

Mr. Allen said if Mr. Thune wins, “that’s like picking up three seats in itself. That will send a message.”

Republican senatorial candidates in tight races who stayed home to campaign instead of attending the convention include: Rep. David Vitter, the front-runner in Louisiana; former Rep. Tom Coburn, who holds a slight lead over his Democratic rival in Oklahoma; and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is in a dead heat against former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles.

Mr. Coburn’s opponent, Rep. Brad Carson, did not go to the Democratic convention in Boston, nor did Mrs. Murkowski’s opponent.

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