President Bush finally stopped in Cuba City on Tuesday, five months after he zoomed through town without stopping, creating an opportunity for John F. Kerry and a stir in the City of Presidents, as this little town has called itself for nearly three decades.
Bush joked about the matter when he stood up before nearly 2,000 screaming supporters Tuesday afternoon in the Cuba City High School gymnasium. "Kinda makes sense that a president stops in to say hello" in the City of Presidents, Bush observed to appreciative laughter. "A few months ago, I was the first sitting president to pass through Cuba City. Today, I'm the first sitting president to stop in and give a speech."
Kerry stopped in August, and tweaked Bush then for his May drive-through at 40 mph. The whole town had turned out to line the main drag here but failed even to catch a glimpse of Bush as his caravan zoomed past.
Kerry's subsequent visit, reported on the front page of The Washington Post in August, set Cuba City astir. A number of locals told The Post that it was enough to win their votes in November.
One of those, Reg Weber, who runs the local meatpacking plant with two brothers, reiterated his support for Kerry on Tuesday. "This is my type of man," he said, praising Kerry not just for stopping in Cuba City but also for staying to talk to residents on a man-to-man basis.
But Weber said Bush's visit would have an impact on the locals, too. "Right now, it's running about 50-50" between Kerry and Bush, he said -- a pretty safe assumption here in Grant County, where Al Gore beat Bush by 451 votes four years ago. And there was plenty of enthusiasm on display for Bush.
Bush's rally in the school gym featured his stump speech. The kids were told that if they wore a Kerry button or made any rude interventions, they would be in big trouble. No one did.
The City of Presidents has a shield with the name of every chief executive on it, and as of this evening, one with a presidential autograph.