Bush Seeks Role in Campaign Home Stretch President Bush will be on the road for much of the next nine days, campaigning to try to help his party keep its majority in Congress. But with many polls showing his job approval rating in the upper 30s, there's no guarantee the President will receive a warm welcome everywhere he goes.
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Bush Seeks Role in Campaign Home Stretch

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Bush Seeks Role in Campaign Home Stretch

Bush Seeks Role in Campaign Home Stretch

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

President Bush will be on the road for much of the next nine days. He'll be campaigning to try to help his party keep its majority in Congress. But with many polls showing his job approval rating in the upper 30s, there's no guarantee the president will receive a warm welcome everywhere he goes.

NPR White House correspondent David Greene is also on the road, covering the campaign and following the president. And he joins us this morning from Dubuque, Iowa.

David, as the White House puts together the president's itinerary for this final stretch, are there concerns that his visit may hurt GOP candidates?

DAVID GREENE: Oh, absolutely, Liane. And they're being very, very careful about picking where he's going to go in these crucial last days. I mean, the president has to do events. He's head of his party and it would look pretty bad if he were not out there actively campaigning and talking about the party's broad message. And there are places where Republicans feel like he can really help them, and get the base really excited and generate some enthusiasm. But, you know, the White House and the president himself are very aware that Republican candidates around the country have been distancing themselves from him.

We've seen new ads coming up from Democrats, trying to tie their Republican opponents to President Bush. In fact, Mr. Bush was asked about this last week at a news conference. And just listen to this tape.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Unidentified Man (Reporter): Are you resentful that some Republican candidates seem to be distancing themselves from you?

President GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, no. I'm not - nor am I resentful that a lot of Democrats are using my picture. All I ask is that they pick out a good one.

GREENE: So I think it's really important in these last days for the White House not to do the kind of visit that would give ammunition, almost a gift, to Democrats. But there are places where they're choosing where they think they can be helpful.

HANSEN: So where can he go?

GREENE: Well, it's places like Sellersburg, Indiana. That's where he was yesterday. And the president won this district. It's an area of a typically Republican state where there's a Republican who - he's in a tight race, so the president can come. It's a town, Sellersburg, right across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. Hadn't seen a presidential visit in decades, so there was a lot of enthusiasm about that, no matter which party the president happened to be from. He spoke in a high school. And really, it was the first old-fashioned campaign rally the president had done in a while. And there was 4,000 people screaming for him, chanting USA, USA. There were some protestors outside calling for the president to be impeached. But inside, it was really just a lot of Bush excitement.

And so I think these are the places that he's going to choose. If you look at his schedule the next couple of days, for example, the president is going to Georgia tomorrow, a typically conservative state. Then he goes to Sugar Land, Texas for former Congressman Tom DeLay's district. And then on Tuesday, it's back to Georgia. So two trips to Georgia in two days is an indication of how limited their map is right now.

HANSEN: Are there other ways the president can help the party?

GREENE: Sure, and we saw that recently as well. The president did a conference call with 3,000 Republican activists to get them really geared up and into the race. And you know, the Republicans have shown their turnout operation is pretty incredible. And even Democrats have said that they haven't equaled Republicans yet, in terms of being able to pick out the voters they need to get to the polls, put together the lists, go out and convince them that it's important to vote. And the president can do a lot to excite those people and get them really working hard around the country.

We've also seen from the president talking about, you know what, I know the polls show that we're down, but we're going to win. And I think that's very important for him to not let Republicans get down and out around the country, looking at the polls, and looking at the news stories about how bad things look. So I think making sure there's not a lack of optimism. And Karl Rove came back on Air Force One the other night, had a V for victory sign and said, victory, victory, victory. So it's not clear if he's seen polls we're not, or if he's just trying to keep a happy face on.

HANSEN: NPR's David Greene. David, thanks a lot.

GREENE: My pleasure, Liane.

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