President Speaks to Donors in 2 States

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

President Bush headlined closed-door fundraisers for embattled Republican congressional candidates in Connecticut and Ohio yesterday, events that underscored both his continued ability to attract donations and his continued unpopularity with much of the public.

The president stopped first at a luncheon at a palatial Greenwich, Conn., home overlooking Long Island Sound. The event, hosted by investment banker Scott Franz, was attended by 65 people and raised almost $800,000 for the state GOP's coffers, according to White House press secretary Tony Snow. Most of the money is expected to help Republican Reps. Nancy L. Johnson, Rob Simmons and Christopher Shays, all of whom are locked in tough races with Democratic challengers.

The White House is not supporting the candidacy of Republican Senate candidate Alan Schlesinger. He is running against antiwar Democrat Ned Lamont and incumbent Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who lost the Democratic primary and is now running for reelection as an independent.

After the event, the president jetted to Cincinnati, where he took part in a fundraiser for Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine. It marked the third time this year Bush has held a closed-door fundraiser for DeWine, who is in a tight contest with Rep. Sherrod Brown (D).

Although Bush won Ohio during his reelection campaign two years ago, the state's relatively high unemployment rate and growing opposition to the war in Iraq have helped erode the president's popularity there. One television ad for Brown, financed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, shows a blurry photograph of a laughing DeWine arm-in-arm with Bush. "Mike DeWine likes working together . . . with George Bush," reads text laid over the photograph.

The situation in Ohio is hardly unique. Bush has been featured in the ads of Democratic congressional candidates across the country who are trying to tie the unpopular president to GOP candidates. At the same time, many Republican candidates have chosen to stay out of public view when with the president, even while seeking his help to raise money. The president's two events yesterday were among five closed fundraisers that he is scheduled to take part in this week.

Snow brushed aside suggestions that Bush was meeting privately with Republicans because of his low approval ratings. "We're having them closed because they are in private homes," he said.

Vice President Cheney also hit the road yesterday, headlining a $140,000 event at a Milwaukee hotel, where he warned that "reckless" Democrats would undermine the nation's security if they win in the fall. Withdrawing from Iraq, Cheney said, would "validate the al-Qaeda strategy and invite even more terrorist attacks in the future."

Cheney then spoke at a rally of Michigan Army National Guard troops at an armory in Wyoming, Mich., with scores of camouflage-clad soldiers standing behind him. Afterward, the vice president headed for a closed-door fundraiser in East Lansing, expected to raise $935,000 for GOP Senate candidate Mike Bouchard and state Republicans.

Staff writer Peter Baker contributed to this report.

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