Each week seems to bring another story like this:
Republican congressional candidates throughout the U.S. love President George W. Bush’s fund-raising prowess. They just don’t want to be seen in public with him.
When Bush headlined a May 24 fundraiser in Philadelphia to benefit members of Pennsylvania’s Republican congressional delegation, only two of the 13 incumbents up this year — Representatives Jim Gerlach and Michael Fitzpatrick, the event’s main beneficiaries — attended.
Among those absent was Senator Rick Santorum, who trails Democratic challenger Robert Casey by 13 percentage points in the latest Quinnipiac University poll. The poll, taken May 2-8, also showed Bush’s approval rating at 30 percent in the state, compared with 73 percent four years ago.
“There was a time when on any trip by the president to Pennsylvania, you’d find Rick Santorum fairly close by,” said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown. “Any time the president is in the state for a big fund-raising event and Rick Santorum isn’t there, it’s fair to question why.”
The Rothenberg Political Report last month increased its estimate of likely Democratic victories in the House to as many as 12 seats, with a possibility of even more gains, from as many as 10. Democrats need a net gain of 15 to take control of the chamber.
Bush raised more than $1 million for the Maryland Republican Party on May 31. Republican Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, who’s running for Senate in the heavily Democratic state, didn’t attend. He went to a fundraiser in Nevada with Republican Senator John Ensign. Steele’s campaign won’t directly receive any of the money from the Bush event, said his spokesman, Doug Heye.
Senator Lincoln Chafee, among the most vulnerable Republicans running for re-election, has been helped on the fund-raising circuit by First Lady Laura Bush, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. The Rhode Island lawmaker says he has no plans to appear with the president to raise money.
“The president’s poll numbers aren’t good right now,” Chafee, 53, said. And Rhode Island, which backed Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 is “unfriendly territory” for Bush. “I’m looking elsewhere,” Chafee said.
Senator Mike DeWine, a vulnerable Ohio Republican, didn’t attend a speech Bush gave in his home state on the Iraq war in March and missed a health-care speech by the president in February. He did attend a private fundraiser in Ohio with Bush in February. Another is planned, DeWine said.