Bush Heads West to Stump for Republicans

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

RENO, Nev., Oct. 2 -- President Bush on Monday kicked off a three-day Western campaign fundraising trip that will take him to Nevada, California, Arizona and Colorado as he steps up his efforts to preserve Republican control of Congress five weeks before too-close-to-call midterm elections.

Bush plans to use the campaign swing to launch an aggressive attack on Democrats for voting last week against bills that limited the courtroom rights of terrorism suspects and authorized the president's warrantless wiretapping program.

"It sounds like they think the best way to protect the American people is to wait until we're attacked again," Bush said at his first stop, a fundraiser here for House candidate Dean Heller. "That's not the way it's going to be under my administration."

The fact that Bush had to go to the aid of Heller, the secretary of state, was another indication of Republican trouble. The 2nd Congressional District, which covers all of Nevada but Las Vegas and its suburbs, has not elected a Democrat since being created in 1982.

But in the bruising August primary to replace Rep. Jim Gibbons, who is running for governor, Heller emerged financially tapped out. He won by just 421 votes, a victory that the runner-up briefly sought to overturn in court.

The latest public poll, commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, found Heller leading Democrat Jill Derby by just 45 percent to 42 percent in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by a margin of nearly 3 to 2.

Bush's approval rating in the state stands at 41 percent, roughly comparable to his national standing, but he has the ability to bring in the big dollars Heller needs. His visit to a hangar at the Reno airport raised $360,000 from a few hundred people.

-- Peter Baker

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