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Bush Campaigns in Mississippi, Kentucky - 2003-11-01

President Bush is campaigning for Republican candidates for governor in the southern states of Mississippi and Kentucky. Mr. Bush hopes his popularity will help Republicans unseat Democrats in local elections in those states Tuesday.

President Bush won both Mississippi and Kentucky in the 2000 election by comfortable margins. Now, he is hoping both states will drop Democratic leadership and elect Republican governors, which in turn could help his own re-election bid next year.

In Mississippi, former Republican national chairman Haley Barbour is challenging the Democratic incumbent Ronnie Musgrove. In Kentucky, term limits prevent Democratic Governor Paul Patton from running for re-election, so the state's attorney general is running against a Republican Congressman.

President Bush opened a full day of campaigning with a rally in Southaven, Mississippi, where he urged Republican activists to get out the vote for Mr. Barbour.

"We're coming down to voting time here in Mississippi. It's time to make sure that people get the message that you got a good man in Haley Barbour," he said. "That means that you need to go out and find your neighbors - Republicans, Democrats, Independents, people who don't care about political parties at all to get to the polls."

Mr. Barbour urged Mississippi voters to support his candidacy as a way of showing how much they appreciate President Bush's leadership on issues ranging from education to energy to fighting terrorism.

Mr. Barbour and Mr. Bush say recent economic growth is a direct result of the president's tax cuts. The health of the economy will be central to the president's push for re-election, and Republicans across the country were cheered by this week's news that the economy expanded by more than seven percent between July and September.

Democrats say that recovery is still not helping to lower unemployment rates, which remain above six percent. In the Democratic response to the president's weekly radio address, incumbent Mississippi Governor Musgrove challenged the president's handling of the economy, following the loss of more 2.5 million manufacturing jobs.

"Americans are working harder for less," said Governor Musgrove. "Our country is on track for the worst job-creation record since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. Governors and states across the country are weathering the worst budget deficits since World War II."

After Mississippi, President Bush rallied Republicans in Kentucky, where third-term Congressman Ernie Fletcher is running against Democrat Ben Chandler. As a sign of the importance both national parties are placing on these races, Mr. Bush scheduled two rallies in each state Saturday, with public opinion polls showing both contests are extremely close in the days before the vote.