- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

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DALLAS — President Bush last night wrapped up a 10,000-mile, 10-state campaign blitz, but now he can only wait to see whether he will have a friendly House and Senate to help him push through his agenda over his final two years in office, or a Democratic majority that will fight him at every turn.

Before about 10,000 screaming supporters gathered at Reunion Arena for his last rally of the midterm congressional campaign, the president predicted that Republicans will keep control of both houses.

“We’re closing strong because we’re right on the issues,” Mr. Bush said. “For the next 2 years, I’m going to sprint as hard as I can to make this country great.”

Mr. Bush spent the last two weeks of the campaign cycle trying to turn out the Republican base, visiting states he won in 2004. But many election strategists say dispirited conservatives may not go to the polls today, and Democrats say they are poised to take control of the House, and possibly the Senate as well.

Still, several new polls showed that the race for control of Congress may be narrowing, and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman proclaimed that voters are discovering new “enthusiasm” for Republicans.

In his final campaign swing, the president stoked that enthusiasm at events attended by a total of more than 75,000 Republicans. At events in Montana, Nevada, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Florida, Arkansas and Texas, Mr. Bush urged supporters to get out the vote.

“I thank you for what you have done to help these candidates, and I thank you for what you’re going to do for the next 24 hours. You’re going to pick up the phone, you’re going to make the phone calls, you’re going to turn out your friends and neighbors, and we’re going to win,” he said to cheers from supporters in Florida.

In an odd twist — showing the difficulties Republicans face this year as polls show voter dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush and the war in Iraq — the man who had invited the president to Pensacola, Fla., did not show up. Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, who holds an eight-point lead on his challenger in the most recent poll, said he skipped the event because he needed to campaign in other parts of the state where his support was weak.

Here in Texas, Mr. Bush headlined a rally for the man who succeeded him as governor of Texas, Rick Perry. But his final stop of this campaign will likely turn out to have been overkill: Mr. Perry leads his closest challenger by 16 percentage points in the latest poll.

At every stop on the road, Mr. Bush extolled the achievements of the Republican-controlled Congress: Tax cuts, low unemployment, steep reductions in the deficit. He also hit hot-button conservative issues — defining marriage as between a man and a woman, lambasting Democrats for stalling his judicial nominations, and touting Republicans’ strength on national security.

“We’re closing strong in this election because the American people have finally figured out our tax cuts work, and the Democrats are going to raise your taxes,” the president said in Arkansas.

As the Bush administration’s top officials fanned out across the country in last-ditch efforts to ramp up Republican voters, Democrats also called out their own top guns in the final days. Former President Bill Clinton, who made 30 campaign stops in 15 states in October, stumped Sunday for Democratic candidates in Maryland and yesterday for Virginia Senate candidate James H. Webb Jr.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who said he is considering a presidential run in 2008, campaigned for Tennessee Senate candidate Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., as well as for candidates in Missouri, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, absent from the campaign trail for weeks, attended rallies for candidates in Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

But Republicans countered with their own stars, including former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who campaigned for Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Virginia Sen. George Allen. Arizona Sen. John McCain, also expected to run for president in 2008, campaigned for Tennessee Senate candidate Bob Corker and for Mr. Allen.


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