Bush Campaigns to Rally the Faithful for Election Day President Bush will spend the final few days of this campaign season on the trail. He's encouraging voter turnout among party faithful in the "red states" where he is still popular.
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Bush Campaigns to Rally the Faithful for Election Day

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Bush Campaigns to Rally the Faithful for Election Day

Bush Campaigns to Rally the Faithful for Election Day

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

President Bush travels to Missouri and Iowa today, his latest stops in the final week of campaigning. The president is visiting states that he won in the 2004 presidential race. He is avoiding places where his presence might actually rally Democrats more than help Republicans. In a few minutes, our political experts join us for some analysis as we enter the final weekend before the election.

First, NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with the president.

DON GONYEA: This is the president's final thrust in Campaign 2006. He left the White House yesterday morning for Montana and won't fly back to Washington until after he's cast his own vote at the local firehouse in Crawford, Texas, on Tuesday morning. Yesterday's first stop was at an arena in the town of Billings.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GONYEA: These events are designed to look just like the president's reelection rallies from two years ago. And though the crowds aren't as large this time around, there's the same music and lots of enthusiasm.

Unidentified Man: I am proud to introduce the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GONYEA: Of course, the goal here is not to sway any votes or to change any minds. These events are all about voter turnout. The president spoke to the faithful as he stood on the stage with Montana Senator Conrad Burns. A Burns victory is crucial to Republican hopes for maintaining a majority in the U.S. Senate.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I want to thank you in advance for what you're going to do in these last days of the campaign - turn out the vote and send this man back to Washington.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GONYEA: From Billings, it was off to Nevada, a state Mr. Bush won twice in winning the presidency. His approval ratings here have been slumping. Still, he is a popular figure in rural areas such as Elko, where an outdoor rally was staged for him at the airport.

Pres. BUSH: I want to thank the Elko High School band.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Pres. BUSH: Let me ask you something. You're not skipping school are you?

(Soundbite of laughter, cheering)

Pres. BUSH: You are? Well, I'm glad to provide a convenient excuse.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Pres. BUSH: If you're 18, just remember who got you out of school today and vote for who I ask you to vote for.

GONYEA: Such folksy banter was of course accompanied by the usual attacks on Democrats. In addition to going to a pair of Republican red states yesterday, today the president is in two more states he carried in '04. He starts in Springfield, Missouri, where incumbent Republican Senator Jim Talent is in a dead heat with Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill. Later today, Mr. Bush will be in the town of Le Mars, Iowa, another Republican stronghold near the Nebraska state line.

The question for the White House yesterday was this: Has voter anger over the war, combined with disapproval of his administration, forced the president to campaign far from population centers, in terrain where voters are still friendly? A senior administration official speaking anonymously on Air Force One, said no. Rather, the president it going places where his presence can have the most impact on voter turnout.

Over the weekend, he'll be in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. On Monday, Arkansas and Texas. It's hard not to notice that Mr. Bush is flying across the country to Elko, Nevada while avoiding states mere minutes from the White House, states like Maryland and New Jersey, both with hotly-contested Senate races. In fact, if you look at the final week of the campaign, he'll have traveled to 10 states, all of which he carried two years ago. Those stops include, on election eve, Dallas, where there's no real suspense about any of the races on the ballot.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, traveling with the president in Elko, Nevada.

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