Topeka Thirty-six hours before Americans go to the polls, President Bush was in Kansas trying to bolster U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun's campaign and stop a wave of discontent about the war in Iraq that threatens a Democratic takeover of Congress.
"We will fight in Iraq, and we will win in Iraq," Bush told 7,000 Republican faithful Sunday night at the Kansas Expocentre.
Bush spent most of his 40-minute speech defending his decision to invade Iraq and his administration's handling of the war.
"The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision, and the world is better off," he said.
The loudest cheer of the night erupted when Bush told the crowd that earlier in the day Saddam, the former Iraqi leader, was convicted and sentenced to death.
Bush criticized Democrats, saying they had no plan for Iraq.
"If we want to leave before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here," Bush said. "Iraq's the central front in the war on terror."
Democrats who have criticized the president for the war and his tactics in fighting terrorists aren't unpatriotic, Bush said, "I'm just saying they're wrong."
He also said that if Democrats are put in charge of Congress, they will increase taxes.
After the event, Ryun, the Republican from Lawrence, said the president's visit would help him defeat Democrat Nancy Boyda in the race for the 2nd Congressional District, which includes west Lawrence, plus Topeka, Manhattan and much of southeastern Kansas.
At the outset of the campaign, Boyda wasn't given much of a chance of winning because she lost to Ryun in 2004 by 15 percentage points.
But in recent weeks, campaign polls have showed a close race. Boyda has said her internal polling has her ahead in the race.
Ryun said that as Bush was leaving the Expocentre, he asked Ryun, a former champion mile runner, if he "remembered that finishing kick."
Ryun said Bush told him: "I want to see it all the way through Tuesday."
While Bush asked the audience to support all the Republicans on the ballot, he heaped praise on Ryun, calling him a "compassionate conservative."
"He's a decent, honorable man who works hard on behalf of the people of Kansas," he said.
The Kansas Democratic Party had a different view, saying that Ryun was a "rubber stamp" for corrupt Washington officials, voting 95 percent of the time with indicted former Republican leader Tom DeLay.
- Bill Walberg and Beka Romm, KU College Republicans, talk about the rally.
- Garret Tufte, KU student, protested against bipartisanship and the war.
- John Peden explains why he protested against Jim Ryun Sunday night.
- Liz Rogers and Chad Lawton, co-chairs of Douglas County Republicans, talk about the rally.
- Matthew D. Miller talks about the negative response protestors got from people leaving the rally.
- Michael Bales, KU student, explains why he came to the rally to protest against bitter bipartisanship.
- Washburn cheerleaders warm up the crowd
"I think the people of Kansas deserve an independent voice to represent their interests in Congress, not another rubber stamp whose primary concern is to maintain the power of their party," state Democratic Party executive director Mike Gaughan said.
But Republicans who watched Bush said they hoped his visit would enthuse GOP voters.
Todd Pettit of Topeka acknowledged that the war was hurting Republicans. "People are not in favor of the war," Pettit said.
He said Iraqis need to be trained to take over security of their country, and if that doesn't happen, a plan is needed to start pulling out U.S. troops.
William McKenzie, of Wabaunsee County, said the president made a forceful presentation.
"He believes in his policies and follows through with them," he said.
Doug Wertenberger and his wife, Anne, of Sabetha wore "Jim Ryun" T-shirts to the rally. They said that Bush's visit will help Ryun, and that although many people are upset about the war, they will remain true to the president.
"I don't believe the war is going as well as Bush would like, but it's going as well as is possible," Doug Wertenberger said.
'Bad election' for GOP
Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University, said Bush's visit to Republican-dominated Kansas so close to the election shows the depth of the GOP's problems.
"This is going to be a bad election for Republicans, it's just a question of how bad," Beatty said. "It's almost shocking that Ryun's seat is in play because two years ago he handily defeated her."
Pollsters have said Democrats have a good chance of winning at least 15 additional House seats, which would give them control of the House. They also have said it's possible Democrats could win control of the Senate.
Beatty said Bush's visit could be a boon or backfire.
"Having a president may get out the base, but it will remind the independents why they are not happy in the first place," he said. "It's a gamble by the Republicans."
More about the race
- 6News video: President Bush visits Topeka, supports Ryun
- Boyda's call for change attracts Capitol cheers (11-06-06)
- Protests in, around Expocentre bring one arrest (11-06-06)
- LIVE BLOG: President Bush visits Kansas to boost Ryun (11-06-06)
- Kline, Barnett on last-minute whirlwind tour (11-05-06)
- Campaigns at fever pitch in final days before election (11-05-06)
- About half of voters expected to turn out (11-04-06)
- Republican officials plan bus campaign tour (11-02-06)
- Ryun concedes race is tight (10-31-06)
- More about the race for U.S. House, 2nd District
- More in Election 2006