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Bush toughens rhetoric to draw out GOP voters
The Washington Post
SUGAR LAND, Texas — President Bush said terrorists will win if Democrats win and impose their policies on Iraq, as he and Vice President Dick Cheney escalated their rhetoric Monday in an effort to turn out Republican voters in next week's midterm elections.
Democratic campaign operatives continued to broaden the field of races they believe are competitive enough to merit last-minute investments, as the party's House election committee launched ads in typically conservative districts of Kentucky, Nebraska and Nevada. In the battle for the Senate, new public and private polls Monday indicated very tight races in Tennessee, Virginia and Missouri, the last of which is shaping up as possibly the country's tightest contest.
Faced with potential GOP defeat in both chambers, Bush and Cheney aimed to avert that by convincing voters that they cannot risk giving the opposition party any power in Washington.
"However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses," Bush told about 5,000 GOP partisans packed into the arena at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. "That's what's at stake in this election. The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq."
Democrats reacted sharply to the latest White House attacks. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Bush "resorted to the same tired old partisan attacks in a desperate attempt to hold onto power." House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Bush is looking to retain a "rubber stamp Republican Congress that has done nothing to change our failed Iraq policy."
Cheney, meanwhile, said in an interview with Fox News that he believed insurgents in Iraq were timing their attacks to influence the U.S. elections.
"It's my belief that they're very sensitive of the fact that we've got an election scheduled," he said. Cheney said the insurgents believe "they can break the will of the American people. ... That's what they're trying to do."
The increasingly combative tone from the White House signaled a coordinated GOP effort to remind conservatives why they should turn out to vote, despite what many say is their anxiety over the Iraq war, disenchantment with the Mark Foley page scandal and anger over federal spending.
The president's travel schedule in the final week of the campaign is a stark reminder of his political weakness in many parts of the country — and in many swing districts — where it is too dangerous for GOP candidates to be seen with Bush. After his rally in Georgia on Monday, Bush flew to Sugar Land, Texas, to stump for Shirley Sekula-Gibbs, the GOP write-in candidate trying to succeed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who resigned amid the Jack Abramoff scandal.
"The fact that Republicans are working hard to hold onto one of the most Republican districts in the country — that tells you the depth of the Republican struggles around the country," said Amy Walter, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
"We're going to focus the president's time on places where he can maximize Republican turnout," said Sara Taylor, the White House political director.
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