Bush Fortifies Conservative Base
Bush, by contrast, inaugurated a new format for his road show last week, inviting cameras to meetings in North Carolina and Michigan in which he railed against Democrats for holding up his judicial nominees -- an issue dear to social conservatives but unlikely to motivate typical voters. Next came a Pennsylvania bus tour, which Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) described aboard Air Force One as "an effort to stimulate the base in . . . solid Republican counties."
Friday, Bush will speak in Tampa to a national conference on the dangers of the international trade in sex slaves and other forms of human trafficking -- an issue that is important to some Christian groups. At the same time, Bush turned down an invitation to speak last weekend to the NAACP, the nation's largest and oldest civil-rights organization.
Selecting friendly audiences is standard operating procedure for any campaign. But Kerry's campaign on Tuesday issued a statement complaining about Bush restricting access to campaign events, citing news accounts about people being turned away from Bush events because they were not supporters. A Kerry spokesman, Phil Singer, said those who attend Kerry rallies are not asked about their loyalties.
Bush's appeal to Republican partisans was on display Wednesday, on his 12th visit as president to a state he lost to Vice President Al Gore by 5,708 votes. After his stop in suburban Milwaukee, Bush visited two other friendly towns: Fond du Lac, where he earned 57 percent of the vote; and Green Bay area Ashwaubenon, where he beat Gore by 5 percentage points. Writing about Bush's bus tour, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel observed Wednesday: "In the course of a few hours' drive, President Bush will blanket his political base."
Candidates for the GOP nomination to run against Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) worked the party faithful at Bush's stops. "This is probably the biggest Republican county in the state," candidate Tim Michels observed in Waukesha.
The crowd delighted in Bush's stream of Kerry-directed barbs, laughing and applauding when Bush said: "If you disagree with John Kerry on most any issue, you may just have caught him on the wrong day." The audience booed when Bush derided Kerry as a liberal and mocked Kerry's assertion that he represents "conservative values." They cheered his criticism of "sophisticates" and "entertainers from Hollywood."
Bush recited a list of conservative priorities, including help for religious groups and new judges, and opposition to abortion. "We're strong because of the institutions that help give us direction and purpose: our families, our schools, our religious congregations," Bush said in Waukesha.
In Fond du Lac, some of the best-received remarks were Bush's praise for religion -- "love comes from our religious congregations" -- and opposition to same-sex marriage. "Marriage between a man and woman is an important part of stable families," he said. He had to pause for the applause to subside.
Allen reported from Washington.
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