Bush hits campaign trail

President tries to help GOP keep once-safe seats

Maryland Votes 2006

18 Days Until Nov. 7

October 20, 2006|By James Gerstenzang | James Gerstenzang,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Don Sherwood shouldn't have needed President Bush's help in his re-election campaign. Sen. George Allen shouldn't have, either.

But there was Bush yesterday, first in the small town of La Plume, Pa., and then in Richmond, Va., raising money and rousing the faithful - each appearance illustrating the difficulties Republicans are facing as they seek to hold on to what have in the past been safe seats.

Sherwood won 92 percent of the vote in his northeastern Pennsylvania district two years ago, just as he did two years before that, each time with no Democratic opposition. Allen, a former governor of Virginia seeking a second Senate term, only a few weeks ago was anticipating a run for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

Now, each is bringing unique problems to the GOP's national effort to retain its majorities in Congress on Nov. 7: Sherwood is trying to survive a race in which accusations that the long-married lawmaker tried to choke his much younger mistress have become a central focus. Allen has committed a series of miscues that have raised suggestions of racism and efforts to hide his Jewish heritage.

Each race has put Bush in an awkward position of lending the prestige of the presidency to candidates whose personal or political conduct is difficult to defend.

But that's just what he did, using the symbols of his office - and, in the case of Sherwood, an ice cream parlor - to convey his support.

Sherwood, accompanied by his wife, Carol, and daughter, Maria, flew to Pennsylvania with Bush, offering a portrait in family values as they stepped off Air Force One at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

After a fundraising reception at Keystone College, they stopped for five minutes at Manning Ice Cream & Milk in Clarks Summit. The president made sure the message was clear; he told photographers to record "a little family-style eating ice cream," according to a pool report from Bush's motorcade.

In between, the president used the example set by Carol Sherwood to bolster the case for her husband's re-election. In a letter mailed last weekend to her husband's constituents, she said: "I am certainly not condoning the mistake Don made, but I am not going to dwell on it either We do not believe in flogging dead horses or living in the past. It is time to move on, and that is exactly what we are trying to do."

"I'm glad Carol's here with us today," Bush said at the reception, which the Republican National Committee said raised $375,000. "I read Carol Sherwood's letter, I was deeply moved by her words."

White House press secretary Tony Snow, who said last Friday that Bush would stick to his commitments to campaign for Sherwood and Allen, was not quite as effusive yesterday.

Asked whether Bush had concerns, "personally and morally," about the controversies swirling about the two candidates, the spokesman said: "I'm just not going to comment on it."

Democrats gleefully pointed out that Bush was campaigning for Sherwood and Allen in the midst of what he declared last Friday as National Character Counts Week.

Sherwood's problems became known in May 2005, when the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reported that Washington police had responded to a 911 call from his Capitol Hill apartment the previous September. The woman who placed the call initially said Sherwood had choked her but then withdrew the complaint. Last November, Sherwood settled a lawsuit she had filed, accusing him of physical abuse, after admitting a five-year affair.

Allen's difficulties emerged over several weeks this summer and autumn: During a rally, he referred to his opponent's dark-skinned campaign worker as a "macaca"; he was reported to have repeatedly used a racial slur when referring to African-Americans in the late 1970s, and he wrestled awkwardly with the disclosure that his mother's parents were Jewish.

At the Richmond fundraiser, which the Republicans said brought in $530,000, Bush did not directly address the issues that have brought Allen into a tight race against former Navy Secretary James Webb, for whom former President Bill Clinton was campaigning during the day.

James Gerstenzang writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.