DES MOINES -- Last week, it was Oval Office meetings, state dinners and Camp David strolls as President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev met for talks on the superpower relationship and the shape of a new Europe.
This week, it's look-alike hotel ballrooms and sound-alike presidential stump speeches in Milwaukee, Chicago, Des Moines and Omaha. And it's Bush being "so pleased to be here" in the "great state" of Wisconsin. And the "great state" of Illinois. And the "great state" of Iowa. And the "great state" of Nebraska.
Superpower summits come and go. Battles with Congress are won or lost. Crises erupt and pass. But presidential campaigning for Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates goes on. And on. The two-day trip Bush completed Friday will help GOP candidates raise about $2 million, White House officials said.
That brings to around $45 million the amount Bush has helped raise for Republicans since he took office. And the heaviest lifting is yet to come as the November election approaches. Bush is expected to devote up to 10 days in September and more in October to the campaign trail.
While former president Ronald Reagan was an eager campaigner, GOP officials say that Bush is doing even more campaigning than his predecessor, particularly for gubernatorial candidates. In 1986, Reagan did four or five campaign events for GOP gubernatorial candidates, but devoted most of his attention to Senate campaigns.
Bush, in contrast, had campaigned for GOP gubernatorial candidates in Ohio, Oregon, Texas, California, Florida, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Michigan before this trip, when he added Republican Govs. Tommy G. Thompson in Wisconsin and Terry E. Brandstad in Iowa and GOP nominee Jim Edgar in Illinois to the list of those he has helped. He has also done state party fund-raising events in Texas, California, Florida and Michigan, bringing in cash that helps the state tickets from the top down.
Michele Davis, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, said Bush's campaign efforts are "light years beyond what we have seen before, and a lot more than we ever hoped for going in." She and others attributed Bush's willingness to put governors on the presidential campaign favor list to political and personal reasons.
He knows many of the Republican governors from his years of party work and even those who seem in little need of his help, such as Thompson, get it out of friendship. Moreover, the redrawing of each state's congressional and state legislative districts after the 1990 census means that governors will be in key positions to protect their party's interests. The GOP controls 16 of the 36 governor's offices up for election this year and several of the Republican incumbents are considered vulnerable. In the large state gubernatorial battlegrounds, GOP officials are only confident of winning Ohio and their nervousness about losing a major governor's mansion they now control ranges from deep in Florida, to moderate in California, to light in Texas.
No party official claims that Bush campaign visits produce votes for Republican candidates. What he does do is raise money and, according to Davis, provide "instant credibility" to the GOP candidate, who invariably is described as one of the president's best friends and someone the president turns to for advice.
The candidate gets to ride on Air Force One as it arrives in the state and to be seen in news coverage at the president's side. Bush, in his speeches, will lavishly praise obscure parts of the candidate's record, call the candidate and his spouse by their first names and leave the impression that there is no one in the state with whom he has a closer relationship.
The Bush and Reagan styles on these campaign forays are sharply different. Reagan brought the crowds to their feet with sharp, partisan attacks on liberals in Congress, the communist threat and government in general. Bush talks about how much can be accomplished with dialogue and it's a rare attack line that escapes his lips.
With the summit just concluded, Bush offered a brief report card in his appearances this week and sometimes sounded a little defensive. "It was a good summit," he fairly shouted in Milwaukee on Thursday. "It was very productive." He had high praise for Gorbachev and for the process the two have established, a theme of Bush's speeches the past two days.
"No longer the hostility and the outrage and the banging of the shoe, but reason," Bush said. "When you have differences, at least you get them out on the table. And I think that is a good thing, a good reason for itself to have a meeting."
White House and party officials say there is virtually no week between now and Election Day -- except for the August vacation period -- when the president will not be campaigning somewhere for Republicans. Next week, he does large party fund-raisers in Washington; the following week, he goes to North Carolina and Alabama for the GOP.