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Friday, June 18, 2004 - Page updated at 12:26 A.M.
Nethercutt gets a lift from Bush
By Jim Brunner
"He doesn't agree with me 100 percent of the time. He's an independent thinker, the kind of person you want from the state of Washington," Bush said, speaking to more than 600 donors at a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser at the Spokane International Agricultural Trade Center.
"But when the big problems came up, we stood shoulder to shoulder on behalf of the American people," Bush said, praising Nethercutt for voting with him on tax cuts, the war in Iraq and other issues.
The president later touched down at Boeing Field and was scheduled to spend the night at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, where he is expected to address military personnel today about the war in Iraq.
The president's visit was the first on behalf of a Republican Senate challenger this year, and Nethercutt said it showed his campaign has momentum.
Nethercutt spokesman Alex Conant said the president's appearance had raised $750,000 for the Nethercutt campaign as of last night, $250,000 of that in the 36 hours before the event.
About 70 donors who each raised $10,000 for the campaign were invited to be photographed with Bush at a private reception before the fund-raiser.
Bush also used his speech to take credit for recent signs of economic recovery and thank Nethercutt for supporting tax cuts.
"George wants you to keep your money. He doesn't believe taxes ought to go up. I can't say the same for his opponent," Bush said.
And the president spoke extensively about the war in Iraq, saying the U.S. must remain steadfast despite mounting criticism that the administration's justifications for going to war were overstated.
"I had a choice to make, to trust the judgment of a madman or to defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America every time," Bush said.
"You see, because somebody was strong in their belief about the power of freedom, allies of the United States today were former enemies. Someday, an American president will be sitting, discussing world peace, with a duly elected leader from Iraq," Bush predicted.
Despite the price tag, the event was far from luxurious. Donors nibbled on salmon and other hors d'oeuvres outside the ballroom, but for security reasons were not allowed to bring food or silverware inside.
There were no chairs or tables, and the ballroom was decorated only by a Nethercutt banner and a dozen American flags.
Nevertheless, the crowd enthusiastically cheered for Bush and his message. Waiting outside the ballroom before the president's speech was Gary Turnidge, 50, from Mead, just outside Spokane.
Turnidge, who owns three Subway sandwich franchises and contributed $1,500 to Republicans, said Bush has "done the right thing with the war with Iraq and the whole terrorism situation. He's been much more aggressive than his opponent would have been."
Others had kind words for Nethercutt. Steve Erickson, president of the Washington Cattle Feeders Association, said, "George is a guy when he says something, I think, you understand what it means. It's not politically correct gibberish. He's an honest person."
Harold Cox, 77, a semi-retired farmer from Richland who raises cattle and grows potatoes and wheat, said he likes Nethercutt because "he's down-to-earth."
Across the river, Democrats gathered in a park to eat hamburgers and listen to speeches from local Democratic Party officials. A small group of anti-Bush demonstrators stood outside the trade center, heckling people entering and leaving the event.
James Depaolo, 32, one of the protesters, said he was offended by the $1,000-a-plate event in a city where there are homeless people on the streets. "It slaps us in the face," he said.
Bush's visit is a high point for Nethercutt, whose campaign has been aided by a string of high-profile Republicans. Others who have campaigned for him include Vice President Dick Cheney, North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and several Cabinet officials.
Bush said last night that first lady Laura Bush will host a Nethercutt fund-raiser in Washington, D.C.
Murray has been aided by visits from former Sen. Max Cleland and John Edwards, who was a Democratic presidential contender. Later this month, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will headline a $250-a-plate fund-raiser in Seattle.
Murray, first elected in 1992, holds a commanding fund-raising edge. She had raised nearly $8 million through the end of March, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Nethercutt had raised $2.2 million.
"The president coming to campaign for someone who has been a rubber stamp for his policies does not surprise me," said Alex Glass, spokeswoman for the Murray campaign. "The Nethercutt campaign is spinning its wheels."
Polls indicate Nethercutt has a considerable margin to close, anywhere from 10 points behind Murray to nearly 20 points down.
Because Bush's visit to Fort Lewis today is considered a nonpolitical event, many of the expenses for his trip to Washington state will be paid by taxpayers.
Nethercutt's campaign will be billed for a few of the costs. Local taxpayers will foot the bill for law enforcement, fire department and street workers who will be paid overtime for their work. Estimates of local costs were not immediately available.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report. Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or email@example.com
McCain to be at Fort Lewis
Joining forces: Sen. John McCain is scheduled to campaign today with President Bush in Washington state and Nevada appearances likely to finally squelch speculation that he might run as the vice-presidential candidate on a Democratic ticket headed by Sen. John Kerry.
McCain, an Arizona Republican, is to appear with Bush at Fort Lewis, then fly with him aboard Air Force One to Reno, Nev., for a campaign rally.
Los Angeles Times
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