- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

BILLINGS, Mont. — President Bush yesterday kicked off the last swing of his final political campaign, a five-day blitz in 10 states considered pivotal in Tuesday’s congressional midterm elections.

Bent on whipping up the Republican base, the president, visiting only states he won in 2004, is putting his power into play — showing he is neither abandoning close races nor giving up on embattled candidates.

“These are all races that are close,” a senior administration official said aboard Air Force One. “This is about Republican turnout, and these are all close races where he can turn up the vote.”

The president’s first stop yesterday was Montana, where incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns is in a statistical polling tie with Democrat Jon Tester. Mr. Burns has made a move in the past week, after trailing by as many as 10 points a couple of months ago.

Mr. Bush played up his Texas rancher status as he addressed a packed arena in a state that gave him 59 percent of the vote in 2004.

“It’s good to be in a part of the world where the cowboy hats outnumber the ties,” said the tieless Mr. Bush to laughter and applause. He used the same line hours later in Elko, Nev. In 2004, that state’s rural voters strongly backed Mr. Bush, helping him carry Nevada by three percentage points.

“We don’t need a lot of doublespeak in Washington. I think somebody who speaks plainly for the values of Montana is somebody you need to send back as your United States senator,” he said in Billings.

The toss-up race is one of three, with Virginia and Missouri, that political strategists say Democrats must win to get the six seats they need to take control of the Senate.

At his two stops yesterday, the president hit conservative hot-button issues, such as tax cuts, the war on terror, judicial nominees and national security legislation Democrats opposed.

“The Democrat attempt to filibuster the Patriot Act follows an approach that might sound familiar. They voted for it, right before they voted against it,” Mr. Bush said in Billings, reprising a line from his 2004 run against Sen. John Kerry, who has been in the news again this week over a botched campaign-trail joke.

Although many pre-election polls show Democrats poised to take over the House and possibly the Senate, Mr. Bush insisted that those political pundits will be proved wrong.

“You might remember 2004. [Democrats] were already picking out their offices in the West Wing. Except things turned a little differently, and they didn’t need the movers. … When you turn out the vote, we’re going to hold the House and hold the Senate, and America is going to be better off for it,” he said to cheers in Elko.

In a last-ditch effort to hold Republican power in Congress, Mr. Bush will attend two rallies today in Missouri and one in Iowa. Tomorrow, he will attend two rallies in Colorado; Sunday, he will hit rallies in Nebraska and Kansas; on Monday, he finishes up his blitz with stops in Florida, Arkansas and Texas.

Today, the president stumps for candidates in Missouri, where Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Talent is tied in polls with his Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill.

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