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Bush in Full Throttle Campaigning for Republicans - 2002-11-03

His name may not be on the ballot, but U.S. President George W. Bush is campaigning full time in the final hours leading up to Tuesday's election in the United States. Top Democrats say he should be spending more time in Washington dealing with crucial issues.

The president is in almost constant motion, as his jumbo jet criss-crosses the United States in the lead up to election day.

With all of the House of Representatives, one-third of the Senate and 36 of the 50 state governorships being contested, the stakes are high for the president. A mere shift of a few seats could change the balance of power in Congress. And the election of Republican governors in key states could have a big impact on a possible Bush re-election campaign.

His top political advisors acknowledge this will be a very close election, and an all-out effort is being waged by the White House on behalf of members of the president's party. With a high public approval rating of over sixty percent, they say George W. Bush is the Republicans' best weapon in the 2002 campaign.

He is focusing on states where the candidates are virtually tied going into election day, and a few votes could determine the outcome. They include Illinois, where Republicans face tough opposition in races for governor and the House of Representatives.

At a rally in Springfield, Illinois's capital, the president urged Republicans to vote on election day and energize others. "My point to you is, turn out the vote! Do whatever it takes! Get on the phones! Grab your neighbor! Do whatever it takes to get people to the polls, because we are supporting a good slate of candidates for the different offices for which they are running. These are good people, and they need our help, and deserve our support," Mr. Bush said.

At all these campaign events, the president focuses on the issues that matter most in local and state elections, such as education, taxes and health care. He also brings up the war on terrorism and Iraq, though usually near the end of his remarks.

Top Democrats say the president is spending too much time campaigning, and should be tending to these pressing matters in Washington. The chairman of the Democratic Party, Terry McAuliffe, told NBC television's Meet the Press that the president made "a strategic error."

"He has been campaigning constantly. He's done 90 campaign events. He has done 70 fundraisers. He has raised $144 million. I wish he had spent as much time helping our ailing economy, as he has helping ailing Republican candidates. He should have put some time into helping the economy," he said.

Appearing on the same program, Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Rocicot dismissed the criticism. He was then asked if the president should be so involved in partisan politics in the midst of the war on terrorism.

"We know that he can be kept in contact with virtually any responsibilities, any moment, any point in time, all around the world. So the fact of the matter is, life continues to unfold as it will. And I think everybody expects that, not only President Bush, but others will be involved in the political life of the nation," he said.

Traditionally, the party in power at the White House loses seats in Congress midway through a president's four-year term in office. The Bush White House hopes to reverse that trend, and do well in the 2002 elections.