Bush gives Republicans a little pep talk ahead of election
WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush dropped by the Republican National Committee headquarters unannounced to give the staff a little pep talk Tuesday amid polls showing Republicans trailing in the presidential contest and scores of key congressional races one week out from the general election.
Bush, with record low popularity ratings, has largely been unseen on the campaign trail this year, relegated to participating in private fundraisers for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and congressional candidates.
“He encouraged them to work hard for John McCain and keep turning out the vote until the final ballot is cast next week,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said after the 20-minute visit. “He also took the opportunity to thank the staff for all of their efforts during this election cycle and for their support of him over the last eight years.”
The latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Tuesday found McCain trailed rival Democrat Barack Obama by 4 percentage points. Reuters/Zogby polls for battleground states released on Monday showed Obama holding a narrow lead in Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio and Nevada. McCain had a solid lead in West Virginia and was ahead in Indiana.
In congressional races, Republicans must defend 23 Senate seats and are expected to lose at least a few of them, including Virginia and New Mexico. Democrats must defend a dozen seats and only one, held by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, is considered vulnerable.
Republicans are also finding a seat once considered safe, held by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, now particularly vulnerable because the long-serving lawmaker was convicted of seven counts related to corruption.
After a few minutes passed, Bush exited the vehicle and walked up a path to the Oval Office. A Secret Service spokesman said an unarmed 23-year-old man from Baltimore had jumped the White House fence on the south part of the grounds and was taken into custody by officers.
– Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Secret Service agents with their weapons drawn protect Bush)