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Bush Popularity Helps Republicans Win Big in US Election - 2002-11-06


President Bush was not on the ballot Tuesday but winning control of Congress was a big victory for the president as he looks toward his own re-election in 2004.

It was a gamble for President Bush that paid off with record Republican gains.

Running against the historic trend that shows the party in control of the White House losing seats in midterm elections, President Bush used his post-September 11 popularity to campaign hard for Republican candidates.

Many of the winners were recruited by the president's political team. He raised more than $140 million for Republican candidates this year, and in the days before Tuesday's vote led Republican rallies at 17 stops in 15 states.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says Mr. Bush was certainly "heartened" by the Republican wins but shifted the credit to the candidates themselves and those who he said focused on changing Washington's partisan tone.

While the White House tried to be gracious in not claiming too much credit for the results, Republican winners left little doubt about the president's importance in the race. Mr. Bush may not have been on the ballot Tuesday, but he was certainly part of victory rallies across the country.

Re-elected as governor of Florida, the president's younger brother Jeb said he owed much to his family's support.

"I want to thank my mother and dad for being my inspiration in life," he said. "And I want to thank our great President of the United States for coming down and lending a hand to his little brother (during the campaign)."

Republicans won the gubernatorial election in the state of Maryland for the first time in more than 30 years. Governor-elect Bob Ehrlich said the president's campaigning was key.

"The president's very excited and he said to say thank you to you as well. Thank you for helping make this night possible," Mr. Ehrlich.

In the southern state of Georgia, President Bush campaigned hard for Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss to unseat an incumbent Democrat in the Senate. Declaring victory Tuesday, Mr. Chambliss told a rally that the president is already counting on their support for his re-election.

"He told me to come down here and tell you that two years from now, he wants all of you all on his team," he said.

The win gives President Bush two years to establish a legislative legacy broader than record tax cuts or the fight against terrorism. White House officials are mindful of voter concerns about a struggling economy and hope to use control of Congress to simulate growth as the president lays the groundwork for his own re-election in 2004.

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