- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

YORK, Pa. (AP) — President Bush hopped on a Harley-Davidson at a motorcycle factory yesterday as he made an election-year pitch for Republican stewardship of the economy.

The president also was in Pennsylvania to raise cash for former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, who is running for governor.

Cheers and applause erupted inside the Harley-Davidson Inc. vehicle operations plant when Mr. Bush sat on a high-end model painted blue and white and revved its engine again and again. Climbing down, he ripped off blue-tinted safety glasses that he insisted made him look like rock star Bono and jokingly struck a pose intended to show a hip side.

“I’m just looking so far,” Mr. Bush said during a tour of the plant, which employs 3,200 persons. “I’ll let Josh Bolten ride these things,” he said of his chief of staff, known as a motorcycle enthusiast.

After the tour, Mr. Bush held a round-table discussion with Harley-Davidson workers about the U.S. economy, which has showed recent signs of slowing. The president said he discussed with the workers the need for government to open up markets for U.S. products around the world.

“The more Harleys sold in a place like Vietnam or China or India, the more likely that somebody is going to be able to find work,” Mr. Bush said.

An AP-Ipsos poll in early August showed about 37 percent supported the president’s handling of the economy. That matches his lowest level in May 2006 and November 2005, but not that different from the past few months.

The Labor Department yesterday reported that consumer inflation accelerated in July, reflecting a big jump in gasoline and other energy prices. In evidence that the economy is slowing, industrial output in July slipped to just half the June pace.

Later, Mr. Bush traveled to Lancaster to raise money for Mr. Swann, who is hoping to defeat incumbent Democratic Gov. Edward G. Rendell. Mr. Swann trails Mr. Rendell in fundraising and the polls.

Mr. Swann, who was co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign’s African-American steering committee in 2004, says he is not worried about Mr. Bush’s lukewarm popularity. Mr. Bush was speaking at a fundraiser where donors will pay $10,000 for a private reception and photo opportunity with the president and $650 a person or $1,000 a couple for a general reception.

As of early June, Mr. Rendell had raised nearly $20 million — less than half of what he spent in his 2002 campaign and roughly four times the amount Mr. Swann has amassed.

“Swann needs President Bush to help win back those Republicans who are backing Rendell,” said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of Quinnipiac University’s polling institute. “Also, the president can help raise the kind of money Swann needs to take on a well-financed Democratic incumbent.”

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