President George W. Bush campaigned for GOP candidates in Missouri and Minnesota Friday as part of a two-week blitz of two- and three-a-day appearances before Election Day.
Bush stumped in five states this week alone. At the pace he's going he's likely to cross paths with former President Bill Clinton, who will have appeared at some 100 events for 60 candidates by Nov. 5.
Bush was in Georgia on Thursday and made his 11th visit to Florida since his election in 2000 to boost the re-election campaign of his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush. Clinton and his wife, Hillary, Friday were hosting a private fundraiser for Jeb's Democratic challenger, millionaire Tampa lawyer Bill McBride, in Connecticut.
Re-electing Jeb has become a Bush family affair.
The brothers Bush asked their mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, to record phone messages for absentee voters. The president will make another stop in Florida a few days before Nov. 5.
Bush stumped with senate candidate Jim Talent in Springfield, Mo., Friday morning and appeared alongside Republican Senate nominee Norm Coleman in Rochester, Minn., in the afternoon. Talent is in a tight race with incumbent Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan and Coleman trails incumbent Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone in Minnesota.
Bush has raised more than $140 million for Republicans at more than 60 GOP fundraisers this election cycle.
Clinton also has been recording radio ads for Democratic candidates aimed at African-Americans and hosting unpublicized private fundraisers in Washington and at his home in New York state.
The Washington Post said Clinton has raised campaign funds for former New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Pennsylvania Rep. Tony Holden, New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Bill Richardson and Florida's McBride.
McBride goes to New York
Bill McBride, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, encouraged by polls showing him in a statistical dead heat against the incumbent Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, was on a 26-hour fundraising trip to New York City, Connecticut and Washington.
Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, president of New School University, and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson hosted a breakfast in New York City where they noted it's hard to run as a challenger against a governor let alone the president. The fundraising trip is expected to add $1 million to McBride's $11 million campaign fund.
Lautenberg's lead growing
Two weeks after joining the Senate race as a stand-in for Bob Torricelli, former New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg is widening his lead over Republican Douglas Forrester.
A poll by Fairleigh Dickenson University's PublicMind gave the 78-year-old Lautenberg 44 percent to Forrester's 38 percent, with 10 percent undecided.
The poll said another 4 percent of likely voters, mostly Democrats, were leaning toward Lautenberg, who replaced Torricelli on the ballot when the incumbent dropped out amid ethics questions.
An analysis by the Eagleton Institute of Politics found Lautenberg has been able to reconnect with women voters with his support for abortion rights and gun control. Forty-eight percent of woman polled backed Lautenberg compared to 32 percent for Forrester.
"Women were really affected by Torricelli's ethical issues," political science professor Bruce Larson told the Newark Star-Ledger. "When it came right down to it, they were possibly willing to support a Republican candidate. But Lautenberg just doesn't have that baggage, and you see women returning to their more natural home."
Lautenberg was endorsed by Planned Parenthood of Newark.
Independents favored Lautenberg 42 percent to 26 percent with 20 percent undecided. The survey of 590 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 10-15 and had a margin of error plus or minus 4 percentage points.
But Lautenberg apparently can forget about inheriting all of Torricelli's big campaign fund. The Bergen County Record says leading Democrats expect the 51-year-old Torricelli to give no more than $3 million to Lautenberg, with whom he served in the Senate (1997-2001).
Sources said Torricelli has $3 million in unpaid bills from his aborted re-election campaign and may use at least $1 million to set up a new political action committee. He paid more than $3 million in legal fees to lawyers defending him from allegations of improper fund-raising in his 1996 campaign.
Federal election law prevents Torricelli from using the estimated $5 million campaign fund for personal expenses
Lautenberg, who made millions in an automated payroll business, plans to spend about $3 million funding his own campaign.
Vermont gov's race a ho-hummer
The three-way race for governor in Vermont, while in some ways historical, is also apparently a yawner.
It is, as the Burlington Free Press puts it: "a race without sizzle."
For the first time in more than a decade, Vermont voters will be choosing someone new to be governor.
The outgoing Democratic Gov. Howard Dean, is not running for re-election. Rather, he is making plans to run for president in 2004.
Hoping to replace Dean are Republican Jim Douglas, Democrat Doug Racine and independent Cornelius Hogan.
Their debates have been polite and sparsely attended. The Free Press reports no issues have divided the candidates or provoked strong feelings in Vermonters.
"What we have that is so different this year is no polarizing candidate or polarizing issue," said Eric Davis, a political science professor at Middlebury College. "We have candidates who really don't arouse the voters' passions."
In a race where the winner will need 50 percent of the vote -- or it will be up to the Legislature to decide -- a recent poll had Racine with 42 percent, Douglas 32 percent, and Hogan 8 percent.
With 14 percent undecided, Racine would need to pick up 8 percent to win, but the lack of excitement could affect turnout.
"With a race this lackluster," University of Vermont political scientist Garrison Nelson told the Free Press, "the undecided stay home."
Romney rejects religion as an issue
Republican Mitt Romney is refusing to allow his Mormon religion to be drawn into the gubernatorial race in Massachusetts.
Democrats have suggested Romney's $1 million gift in 1998 to Brigham Young University in Utah amounts to a tacit endorsement of that school's prohibition against homosexuality.
Romney, who serves as a bishop of the Mormon Church in his hometown of Belmont, Mass., said BYU "is a religiously oriented university" and that he doesn't think religion should be part of the campaign.
"I'm not going to talk about religion," the former head of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics said, declining to discuss whether he agrees with the school's ban on homosexual conduct.
Romney repeated he would "protect and preserve" the rights of homosexuals in Massachusetts.
Romney's Democratic opponent, Shannon O'Brien, has not commented on the issue but recently said she would sign a bill legalizing gay marriage if one is approved by legislators.
Is this the Jerry Springer Show?
The third debate between the candidates for Illinois governor Thursday night degenerated into a scene more like a daytime talk show than public television.
As the forum was winding down, Democratic Rep. Rod Blagojevich turned to host Phil Ponce and said, "Let me tell you a story." He began relating details of the state's licenses-for-bribes scandal in the office of then-Secretary of State George Ryan, who is the state's outgoing governor.
Republican candidate Jim Ryan, no relation, accused Blagojevich of stooping to a new low by using the deaths of six children who were killed by a truck driver who had obtained his license illegally.
"Have you no shame?" Jim Ryan shouted.
"Is this public television or 'The Jerry Springer Show?" Blagojevich fired back.
He said Jim Ryan was not responsible for the children's deaths but said he should have investigated the bribery scandal.
Ryan said it was "despicable" for Blagojevich to exploit the tragedy and remained angry to the end of the broadcast on WTTW-TV.
Political analyst Tom Sarafin said Blagojevich probably went too far in what for the most part was a civil debate.
Friday, Blagojevich said he had no intention of apologizing for his remarks; Ryan said he had lost all respect for his opponent.
9-11 song pulled from ad
Gary Richardson's campaign for governor of Oklahoma will no longer use Alan Jackson's song "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" in a television spot.
A spokesman for Jackson's record company in Nashville, Tenn., said Oklahoma TV stations were asked Thursday not to broadcast the ad -- which criticized Republican candidate, Rep. Steve Largent, for using an expression for bovine excrement during a television interview.
The ad was off the air by Friday.
Jackson's hit song plays in the background of the political commercial that begins with video of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York's World Trade Center towers. The song was used without the artist's consent.
Last Sunday, Largent told a newscaster on KOKH-Channel 25 in Tulsa his questions were "bull(expletive deleted)."
(Dave Haskell in Boston and Alex Cukan in New York contributed to this report.)
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