The big names just keep coming in to boost Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's re-election campaign, and according to a new poll, it seems to be producing a significant lead over his opponent, Democratic lawyer Bill McBride.
Bush was joined Thursday by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has become an American hero of sorts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The mayors of Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach also toured the state on Bush's behalf Wednesday.
And the list goes on: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former presidential contender; Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush; his dad, former President George H.W. Bush; and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Bush's big brother, the president, will make another Florida stop Saturday in Tampa, his 12th visit to the state.
McBride will counter Saturday and Sunday with former President Bill Clinton in effort to get south Florida's African-American voters energized to go to the polls.
It may be too little, too late.
A poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research released Thursday shows Bush has increased his lead by 2 percentage points in the last month. The poll of 800 likely voters conducted Oct. 28-29 shows Bush leading by 51 percent to 43 percent. The survey had a 3.5 point margin of error.
"The odds are pretty good Bush will win this thing," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon. "He's kind of taken McBride's best punch, and now he has to keep himself out of trouble for another week and he should be all right."
McBride said the polls are "all over the map" and campaign aides say his own polling has him behind by only 3 percent.
President Bush on campaign marathon
President George W. Bush is spending the next five days on a final campaign marathon, traveling to about 16 states to help Republicans in Tuesday's midterm elections.
Bush on Thursday stumped for South Dakota Rep. John Thune, his handpicked candidate in one of the most closely contested Senate races in the country, appearing at a get-out-the-vote rally at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.
A KSFY-TV/Mason Dixon poll of 805 likely voters had Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson leading Thune 47 percent to 45 percent, with 8 percent undecided. The survey was taken Oct. 25-27 and had a margin of error of 3.5 points.
About 4,500 people jammed into the Barnett Center for the first presidential visit in frigid Aberdeen in 66 years. Bush said he'd like to go pheasant hunting but was too busy with campaign work.
Bush spent the afternoon at a GOP rally in South Bend, Ind., and headed to an evening rally in Charleston, W.Va., before returning to Washington.
The president will campaign in 17 cities over the next five days -- trying to use the power of the White House to reverse a historical trend of the party in power losing seats in Congress in off-year elections.
Vice President Dick Cheney campaigned in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where former Republican Congressman Jim Talent is in a showdown with Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan in the most expensive Senate race in Missouri history.
Carnahan is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in 2002. Republican strategists regard the race as an opportunity to pick up a seat in the narrowly divided Senate.
Cheney also addressed an Iowa Victory 2002 rally in Sioux City.
First lady Laura Bush will appear with Republican candidates in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Saturday. The president is scheduled to speak in Springfield, Ill., at a rally for gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan Saturday, stump with Minnesota Senate candidate Norm Coleman Sunday and head to Iowa Monday for a Republican rally in downtown Cedar Rapids to urge the party faithful to turn out for Rep. Greg Ganske, who is in a uphill fight to unseat Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
Minnesota Senate campaign back on
Candidates for Senate crisscrossed Minnesota on the first full day of campaigning since the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone and seven others in a plane crash six days ago.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale's first scheduled appearance Thursday was at forum at Macalester College in St. Paul, where he talked about Wellstone's legacy and his abbreviated Senate campaign.
"My opponent has been out here for six years. I've been in the race for 12 hours," he told a gaggle of reporters at Democratic-Farm-Labor Party offices in Minneapolis. Mondale, who served two terms in the Senate, accepted the state party's nomination Wednesday night to replace Wellstone on Tuesday's ballot.
The 74-year-old said he would serve a full six-year term if elected. Initial polling gave him the edge over former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, who resumed campaigning Wednesday, logging more than 800 miles on a fly-around.
President Bush will join Coleman in Minneapolis Sunday on his fifth visit to Minnesota.
Mondale has promised to hold a series of town hall meetings around the state and debate his 53-year-old Republican opponent.
During the 1984 campaign which he lost in a landslide to then-President Ronald Reagan, Mondale once joked about the president's age. Reagan was 73 at the time. Mondale is now a year old than Reagan was. He said he apologized to Reagan and never mentioned age again during the race.
Mondale said Minnesota candidates "can show the world that this is a very special state" by competing with "a level of civility and decency that is worthy of the moment we live in."
Democrats were stung by criticism that Tuesday evening's three-hour memorial for Wellstone at the University of Minnesota had turned into a political rally.
Mondale said he was impressed by the number of Republicans who said some of the Democratic speakers had gone over the line.
Clash of the titans
The battle between two congressional incumbents thrown into the same U.S. House district in Connecticut because of shifting population patterns is living up to its billing as a clash of the titans, according to the Hartford Courant.
In Connecticut's new 5th District, Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson is locked in a tight fight with Democratic Rep. James Maloney.
"The race for this seat is a lot like watching two football linemen ... push each other back and forth," political analyst Amy Walter told the Courant.
Shifting populations nationwide forced Connecticut to give up one of its six House seats, throwing Maloney and Johnson together into the reapportioned 5th District.
Johnson, 67, was first elected in 1982, while Maloney, 54, is seeking his fourth term in the House. Both are known for being middle of the road.
A new University of Connecticut poll released Thursday indicated Courtney was just 12 percentage points behind the incumbent, compared to 22 percentage points in a September poll.
The survey of 624 likely voters from Oct. 24-30 showed 47 percent favored Simmons, and 35 percent, Courtney. In a poll with a 4 percent margin of error, 18 percent were undecided.
Social Security key issue in N.H.
Social Security remains a key battleground in the Senate race in New Hampshire, seen as a statistical dead heat in recent polls.
Democratic nominee Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Rep. John E. Sununu squared off in two debates Wednesday, contrasting their positions on the issue.
Shaheen wants to keep Social Security as it is while Sununu favors voluntary private accounts, according to the Union Leader of Manchester.
"In 40 years, the Social Security Trust Fund will be bankrupt," Sununu said at one event. "The longer we wait, the worse it gets."
"What he's talking about in terms of privatizing Social Security puts the system at risk much, much earlier," Shaheen said. "We can't afford to do that."
Terrorism raised in Idaho race
Sen. Larry Craig left Idaho voters hanging Wednesday night when he dropped a broad hint during a televised campaign debate that members of al Qaida might be holed up somewhere in the state.
Craig, who is not a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, refused to elaborate after the debate with Democratic challenger Alan Blinken about his statement, "When the dust settles for those of us who think we are secure in Idaho -- and we are -- we might find there was an al Qaida connection."
"I believe I must speak limitedly on that issue, but I spoke appropriately," he said.
Craig spokesman Mike Tracy told the Idaho Statesman after the debate that members of the Senate are briefed on terrorism intelligence. A security expert told the newspaper he didn't think Craig was offering up a pre-Halloween scare to voters.
"Either the terrorists know they are being watched or there is a reason Larry Craig released that information," University of Idaho security analyst Rand Lewis said.
Blinken, a former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, declined comment as well, and stuck to more mundane issues such as Social Security, gun control and the economy.
"It is good-paying jobs, and for goodness' sakes," Blinken said. "That is the most pressing issue for the state of Idaho."
Here we go again: What's in a word
A flap over the use of the word "unbecoming" has touched some gender nerves in the Massachusetts governor's race.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney, during Tuesday night's debate, chided his Democratic opponent, Shannon O'Brien, for her "unbecoming" attacks on him.
O'Brien later bristled at the characterization.
"I certainly think that he wouldn't have used the term 'unbecoming' if he were speaking about a male opponent," she said.
Romney denied the word amounted to gender stereotyping, defending it as gender-neutral.
"When somebody does something which is not the kind of manners I would have expected, that's the word I would apply to a man or a woman," Romney said.
Meanwhile, the Boston Herald in an editorial Thursday endorsed Romney as the "bold new leader" Massachusetts needs. The Boston Globe previously had endorsed O'Brien.
Late polls, polls, polls...
In Michigan, Democratic candidate for governor Jennifer Granholm had a 13-point lead over Republican Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus in a Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll of 513 registered voters. Granholm led 54 percent to 41 percent, with only 5 percent undecided. The survey was taken Oct. 27-29 and had a margin of error of 4.5 percent. Bill Clinton will make his second campaign trip to Detroit Friday.
The latest Badger Poll, conducted by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center Oct. 24-29 had Democratic challenger Jim Doyle leading incumbent Republican Gov. Scott McCallum 41 percent to 34 percent. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel poll of 501 likely voters had a 4.5-point margin of error.
In Maryland, Republican Rep. Bob Ehrlich led Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend by 4 percentage points in a Baltimore Sun/Potomac Survey Research poll of 869 likely voters conducted Oct. 26-28. Ehrlich had 48 percent to Townsend's 44 percent, with 8 percent undecided. The margin of error in the survey was 3.4 percent.
Republican South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow led Democratic attorney Stephanie Herseth for the state's only U.S. House seat, 47 percent to 42 percent, in a KELO-TV poll of 600 likely voters conducted Oct. 1-7. The poll had a margin of error of 4 percent.
(Les Kjos in Miami, Hil Anderson in California and Dave Haskell in Boston contributed to this report.)