I am writing in response to the Oct. 24 front-page article "Candidates Spurn Bush's Embrace." As a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who was cited in the article, I want to make it clear that I was delighted to have the president visit New Hampshire on my behalf, and I regret that I was not able to be there with him.
While President Bush and I disagree on the budget, we agree that responsibility for the mess lies with congressional Democrats addicted to tax-and-spend policies. The very idea that a disagreement with the president over any issue would give me cause to humiliate or embarrass him is repugnant to me.
I was never contacted by The Post prior to publication of the article. A phone call, or even a cursory glance at the substance of my Senate campaign, would have revealed that voting attendance has become a major issue of contention in the race. I take my responsibilities as a representative seriously, and I am proud to have maintained a 99 percent voting record during the past six years. In fact, I have been forced to postpone several debates in recent weeks to be present for important votes in the House. In the closing days of a congressional session, major legislative items are often brought to the floor with only a few hours' notice. I'm sure my opponent would have loved to see me campaigning in New Hampshire with the president, while missing a critical vote on an issue such as the Clean Air Act or civil rights.
I called and personally expressed my dilemma to White House Chief of Staff John Sununu the night before the event and was assured that the president understood and concurred with my decision not to attend. In fact, Mr. Sununu encouraged me to put my congressional responsibilities first and told me, "Don't worry about it." Had the House not been in session, I would have been in Manchester, N.H., proudly welcoming and thanking President Bush for his assistance. Instead, I was pleased to have my wife, Mary Jo, on hand to represent me.
I invited President Bush to New Hampshire. Logic dictates that I would not have done so if I didn't want him there. The president's visit to my state was an asset and a boost to my campaign.
The Post's article indicating otherwise was inaccurate and inexcusable.
ROBERT C. SMITH U.S. Representative (R-N.H.) Bedford, N.H.