- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

The phones are ringing off the hook at the White House political affairs office with Republican candidates calling to ask President Bush to appear at fundraisers and campaign events.

Despite a consensus among political pundits and Democrats that Mr. Bush was chiefly responsible for the Virginia gubernatorial loss Tuesday, the White House said yesterday that candidates from across the country continue to seek presidential appearances.

“Our political affairs shop gets asked on virtually a daily basis for the president to come campaign for a candidate of our party, and I know he looks forward to doing so next year,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan told The Washington Times yesterday.

Mr. Bush will travel to Maryland later this month to help Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele raise cash for his U.S. Senate race next year. Also in the pipeline are campaign events for Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota.

The Nov. 30 fundraising appearance for Maryland’s lieutenant governor marks the beginning of dozens of appearances Mr. Bush will make as the 2006 House, Senate and gubernatorial elections draw closer.

A spokesman for Mr. Steele said yesterday that the Senate candidate will be “honored” to stand with Mr. Bush, and he disputed assertions that appearing with the president will harm his Senate bid.

“Allegations that Bush will drag down Steele’s candidacy are straight out of the Democratic playbook,” Steele spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said.

Mr. McClellan also took issue with the claim that Mr. Bush — whose job-approval numbers are at the lowest of his presidency — was responsible for the loss of the Republican candidates in Virginia and New Jersey.

“I don’t think any thorough analysis of the election results will show that the elections were decided on anything other than local and state issues and the candidates and their agendas,” he told reporters at a White House briefing Wednesday.

Democrats pinned the Virginia loss on Mr. Bush after he campaigned for gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore in Richmond on the eve of the election. They point to polls that showed the race tight before the president’s visit, then the election’s outcome — Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine won by about six percentage points.

“This portends really well for the future,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. “Unless George Bush reverses his policies and reaches to the middle, you’re going to see many more victories like this.”

There has been fallout from the Virginia election. Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, pressed during a radio interview on whether Mr. Bush would be welcome to campaign and do TV ads for him next year, said, “In a word, no. Not at this time.”

After the official announcement yesterday that Mr. Bush will join Mr. Steele for an event at M&T; Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Democrats said the visit is evidence that the Republican lieutenant governor is allied with policies they view as unpopular in Maryland.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic front-runner in the Maryland Senate race, said through a spokesman that he was “thrilled” that Mr. Bush would be campaigning for Mr. Steele.

“The people of Maryland will have a chance to hear firsthand why Michael Steele is President Bush’s choice to support his administration’s agenda in the U.S. Senate — an agenda that includes privatizing Social Security, cuts to veterans’ health care, huge deficits and a failed policy in Iraq,” spokesman Ken Morley said.

Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman said the president is a “major liability” for Mr. Steele and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election next year.

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