- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — President Bush yesterday said Republicans nationwide are running on a strong record of accomplishment as he ridiculed Democrats seeking to take control of the House and Senate, asking: “What’s your plan?”

“The truth is, the Democrats can’t answer that question. Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory. Second-guessing is not a strategy. We have a plan for victory,” the president said to cheers from 5,000 supporters packed into the Springfield Exposition Center.

Mr. Bush traveled 1,000 miles on the second day of his cross-country campaign to turn out Republican voters on Tuesday in the hopes of staving off what many polls predict — the loss of at least one congressional chamber.

The president has honed his campaign rally speech into a laundry list of Republican successes and dire warnings about a Democratic majority, but yesterday he added a new twist when he painted Democrats as dangerously unfit to battle terrorism and win the war in Iraq.

“Oh, some of the leading Democrats in Washington argue we should pull out right now. Then you got other voices saying we should withdraw on a specific date, even though the job hasn’t been completed. You actually had a member of the House recommend moving troops to an island 5,000 miles away as part of their plan. Nineteen House Democrats introduced legislation that would cut off funds for our troops in Iraq,” he said.

“The Democrats have taken a calculated gamble. They believe that the only way they can win this election is to criticize us and offer no specific plan of their own,” the president said.

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said the Democrats — who must win 15 seats to take control of the House and six seats to take over the Senate — do have a plan.

“America’s troops deserve more than partisan rhetoric and that’s all President Bush has offered along the campaign trail,” she said. “Democrats believe we need a new direction in Iraq and are united behind a strategy of phased redeployment and benchmarks that make it clear to the Iraqis that they must take responsibility for the future of their country.”

The president made two stops yesterday in Missouri, stumping for embattled incumbent Sen. Jim Talent, who is tied with his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill, in the latest polls. On a third stop in Iowa, Mr. Bush used the same fiery rhetoric, heating up conservatives as he hit hot-button issues, from faith to tax cuts to national security. He excoriated Democrats for trying to defeat the USA Patriot Act, kill the Terrorist Surveillance Act and withdraw from Iraq — but, even more, he said Democrats simply have no plan for dealing with the world’s toughest issues.

“So if you happen to bump into a Democrat candidate, you might want to ask this simple question: What’s your plan? If they say they want to protect the homeland, but oppose the Patriot Act, ask them this question: What’s your plan?” he said. “If they say they want to win the war on terror, but call for America to pull out from what al Qaeda says is the central front in this war, ask them this question: What’s your plan?”

The president is spending the final days of the campaign traveling to 10 states — all of which he won in 2004 — in an effort to fire up conservatives voters, who some polls say have grown complacent, even frustrated, with him. While he will visit Montana, Nevada, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, Arkansas, Nebraska. Florida, Kansas and Texas, notably missing from his schedule are two states: Ohio and Virginia.

The White House has quietly abandoned Sen. Mike DeWine in Ohio, who trails Rep. Sherrod Brown in the latest polls by 12 percentage points. And while the president will find time to campaign for some gubernatorial candidates who face nearly certain defeat (such as Rep. Bob Beauprez in Colorado, who trails by 18 points), there is no scheduled stop for Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who is in a dead heat with Democrat James H. Webb Jr.

But the president, like his senior political strategist Karl Rove, is convinced Republicans will retain control of the House and the Senate.

“And the reason why I believe we’re going to win around this country is because Republicans understand the values and the priorities of the American people,” Mr. Bush said in Springfield. “We’re going to win this election because we got a record to run on. We’ve done some things that have made this country a better place.”

At each of his three stops yesterday, the president touted his record, saying his tax cuts have improved the economy and reduced unemployment to a five-year low. He told throngs of cheering supporters that Republican lawmakers have advanced his cause to install conservative judges across the country, and will continue to do so if they are returned to office.

“When people go to the polls here in Missouri, you’re not only voting for the United States senator, you’re voting to determine what kind of judges will sit on the bench. And here’s why. If the Democrats were to control the Senate — which they’re not — but they would prevent judges like Sam Alito and John Roberts from ever making it to Supreme Court of the United States,” Mr. Bush said.

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