President Lends Support in Red-State Races With midterm elections eight days away, President Bush is out on the campaign trail, flying to Georgia and Texas, two states he won by wide margins in 2004. But the political climate is vastly different now; several states the president won in 2004 are now battlegrounds for GOP candidates.
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President Lends Support in Red-State Races

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President Lends Support in Red-State Races

President Lends Support in Red-State Races

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

With the midterm elections now eight days away, President Bush is out on the campaign trail, flying to two states he won by big margins in 2004. The president's goal this week is to get core Republican voters excited in hopes of holding onto control of the House and the Senate.

Coming up we'll hear about Senate races in Virginia and Connecticut. First, some of the House seats the president and the GOP are fighting for in rural and suburban Georgia and Texas.

Here's NPR's Don Gonyea from the White House.

DON GONYEA: The political climate for the president is vastly different this time around. States he carried in a breeze in 2004 are now battlegrounds for his party's Congressional candidates.

But you couldn't tell that from Mr. Bush's campaign events these days, which are designed to look a like the rallies he held on his way to reelection two years ago.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Announcer: Please join me in welcoming the President of the United States.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GONYEA: And like 2004, the president is stressing the need for the faithful to get out the vote.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: We are eight days away from the election and you can bet one thing. We're going to sprint to the finish line.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GONYEA: This was in Statesboro, Georgia, today, where the incumbent, Democrat John Barrow, is working hard to hold off former Congressman Max Burns, the man he defeated narrowly two years ago. The president wants to take this seat away from the Democrats, making their goal of capturing the U.S. House more difficult. The president's approach? To link the local Democrat to leaders of the party nationally, such as Nancy Pelosi, who could become the next Speaker of the House.

Today the president said the Democrats will raise taxes and that their opposition to his policies in Iraq shows they don't understand the enemy.

President BUSH: It's raging across the country, this debate on Iraq. If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don't have one.

GONYEA: But the Democrat in Georgia's 12th is not one of those who says there needs to be a timeline for U.S. withdrawal. As Democrats go, John Barrow is a conservative, a point he makes in this campaign commercial.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Representative JOHN BARROW (Democrat, Georgia): That's why I stood up to leaders in my own party and opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants. They also didn't like it when I fought to get rid of the death tax and when I stood firm on Iraq. We can't cut and run.

GONYEA: That makes the ground less fertile for the president's seeds of doubt to grow. Mr. Bush faces the same kind of challenge in a central Georgia district he'll visit tomorrow, where another Southern-style Democrat, Jim Marshall, is the incumbent.

University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock says these two seats could easily go either way next week, but that the usual attack tactics don't work as well against voting records like Democratic incumbent Barrow's.

Professor CHARLES BULLOCK (University of Georgia): He and Jim Marshall have been supportive of the effort in Iraq. They are generally supportive of gun owners' rights and they're certainly not tax and spend liberals so, yeah these, as I say, are not the new, modern, national Democrats. These are in a sense kind of a throwback to the old Southern conservative Democrats who had almost disappeared.

GONYEA: In fact, if you look at Mr. Bush's overall travels in the week before the election, the focus is primarily on the so-called red states. Saturday it was Indiana and South Carolina. Today, Georgia and the Texas district left open when former Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay resigned under a cloud earlier this year. Then later this week, it's Montana and Nevada. In all these places, the arrival of the president generates major attention without the risk of being an even greater motivating force for Democrats to get out and vote.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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