Bush, Clinton Ratchet Up the Drama

By Robert Barnes and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 20, 2006

President Bush added a stern stay-the-course message on the war in Iraq to his buoyant endorsement of Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) yesterday, and the region's high-profile Senate races received special attention not only from the current occupant of the White House but the former one as well.

While Bush raised about $500,000 for Allen (R) at an event in Richmond, former president Bill Clinton raced through Maryland and into Northern Virginia with a similar mission for Democrats in mind.

Clinton headlined a fundraiser for Maryland Senate candidate Benjamin L. Cardin, rallied die-hard Democrats at a park in Baltimore, raised money for gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley in Montgomery County and ended his evening across the river in McLean, where 375 Democrats ponied up about $500,000 for Democratic Senate candidate James Webb.

Clinton told the Baltimore crowd that his party now has a chance to represent not just progressives but also sensible conservatives. "There's something amazing going on here," Clinton said. "This is not a usual election."

In Richmond, Allen may have gotten a bit more support from the president than he wanted; after Bush departed, Allen seemed to distance himself from some of Bush's tough talk on Iraq.

As he and his wife, Susan, stood next to Bush in front of a huge U.S. flag, the president excoriated Democrats on national security and taxes. "They would have our country quit in Iraq before the job is done," Bush said. "That's why they are the party of cut and run. We will fight. We will stay. We will win in Iraq."

After the speech, the senator's aides brought Allen out to meet with reporters, where he softened the tone, saying that "America needs to adjust. Our battlefield commanders need to adjust and adapt to this evolving threat."

With polls showing that a growing number of Virginia voters are questioning whether the war was worth fighting, Allen has, in recent days, repeatedly sought to align himself with the commonwealth's senior senator, John W. Warner (R), who recently returned from Iraq and has been critical about the war's progress.

"John Warner and I discuss this . . . almost daily," Allen said, adding that a sudden withdrawal would "leave our country much less secure." Asked whether he agreed with Bush's "cut and run" statement, Allen said, "I'm not going to get in an argument here about the president's words versus my words."

He added: "The president has his ideas on Iraq, John Warner has his and I have mine."

In overwhelmingly Democratic Maryland, there was no disagreement with anything Clinton said. The crowd at a waterfront park in Baltimore, many wearing union jerseys, held camera cellphones, waved signs and cheered loudly at every applause line in the president's short speech.

Nostalgia for Clinton's years in office was the theme. Cardin, a congressman, introduced him in a plaintive voice, saying: "Mr. President, we miss you in the White House. It's been a long six years."

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