Bush -- the other one -- boosts Kennedy coffersby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Just three days before Democrats are expected to endorse a candidate for the U.S. Senate, first lady Laura Bush held a fundraiser for Republican candidate Mark Kennedy. Laura Bush urged a crowd of 550 people on Tuesday night to help elect Kennedy to the Senate. Several political analysts say Kennedy is using Laura Bush's popularity to raise money at a time when her husband's poll numbers are near the lowest they've been.
Minneapolis, Minn. — Laura Bush's visit raised $550,000 for Congressman Kennedy and the Minnesota Republican Party. The first lady says Kennedy will stay the course in Iraq, will push for low taxes and is the chief backer of a bill that would give the president line-item veto authority. During her 11-minute speech, the first lady said Congressman Kennedy is needed in the Senate because he'll help get her husband's agenda passed.
"Our country faces challenges that are too important to be reduced to simple politics," she said. "Ending our dependence on foreign oil, reforming immigration, rebuilding the Gulf Coast and keeping our country safe from terrorism are not easy tasks but they are absolutely vital goals."
Laura Bush's visit is meant to pump more cash into Kennedy's campaign war chest. Minnesota's Senate seat is expected to be one of the most competitive Senate races in the nation. Democrat Mark Dayton is not running for re-election and both parties view Minnesota's seat as essential to control of the Senate.
Kennedy just received the GOP endorsement. During his endorsement speech on Friday, he didn't mention President Bush once. The president's approval ratings are near their lows for his presidency. Kennedy's decision to avoid any mention of the president prompted a round of criticism from Democrats, who have been eager to remind voters that Kennedy mostly votes in favor of the president's policies.
Kennedy used Laura Bush's visit to embrace the president and the war on terror.
"I'm sure happy that we have a president that gets up every morning worried much more about protecting America than he is about daily opinion polls. It's not about the polls, it's about doing what's right," he said.
Laura Bush has been in high demand for fundraisers in certain battleground states where her husband isn't doing well in the polls. In some surveys, Laura Bush's favorable ratings are more than double her husband's.
Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report in Washington D.C., says Congressman Kennedy is the latest Republican candidate to call the White House for fundraising help and ask for the first lady instead of the president.
"The president is still a money-raiser for candidates, but when Laura Bush comes to town, she is someone that the candidate can be seen in a photograph with and the candidate will actually appear at the event when she's there instead of being out of town when the president comes to town to raise money for them," according to Gonzales.
Kennedy says President Bush is welcome in Minnesota anytime. But Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota says it's unlikely that Air Force One will be touching down in Minnesota anytime soon. Jacobs says Kennedy has been working to portray himself as someone who can change Washington. Jacobs says that may be a difficult image to sell if you're standing on the stage with a second-term president who's poll numbers are sagging.
"As the president's poll numbers continue to bounce around the bottom of about 30 percent or so, it's less likely that we'll see President Bush and Vice President Cheney coming to town for a high-profile fundraiser and a big bear hug with Mark Kennedy," he said.
President Bush did hold a fundraiser for Kennedy last December. That event raised $1 million for the Kennedy campaign. Kennedy is leading all of the Senate candidates in fundraising. As of April, he's raised $5.4 million. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, the projected DFL frontrunner, raised $3.7 million. Veterinarian Ford Bell is also seeking the DFL nomination.
- Morning Edition, 06/07/2006, 7:25 a.m.