Kansas City, Mo. President Bush made an hourslong fund-raising visit here Friday to support an incumbent Republican Missouri senator locked in a tight race.
With most polls putting Bush's job approval ratings in the high 30s percent range, some pundits say it may be not be an easy decision to call on Bush for political muscle in congressional races. But Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., did Friday for a third time.
"I'm not surprised, but I do think they probably thought about whether it was the right thing to do," said Allan Cigler, a Kansas University professor of political science.
But the visit also came one day before former President Clinton will attend a St. Louis fundraiser for Talent's Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill.
Upon arrival and amid tight security, Bush stepped down from Air Force One and waved to a crowd of about 30 special guests at 3:40 p.m. on a runway at Kansas City International Airport.
After posing for a few photographs and waving one last time, Bush entered a black limousine with adviser Karl Rove and headed to a $1,000-per-ticket private fundraiser for Talent at the home of Scott Ward, co-president of Russell Stover Candies.
Cigler said Bush probably still is more popular in Missouri, particularly conservative southern Missouri, than other spots in the nation.
"I guess Talent has made a decision that the likelihood of raising big money outweighs any negative consequences," Cigler said.
Representatives from the candidates now locked in U.S. House races in the two Kansas districts that include Lawrence said they didn't foresee Bush coming to Kansas before the November election. They gave varying reasons.
"This campaign is so different than two years ago when Bush's ratings were still pretty solid, but Kansans have just seen through the empty rhetoric and they are ready for change," said Nancy Boyda, Democratic candidate for Congress in the 2nd District, which includes west Lawrence.
Boyda said the Bush administration and Congress have failed to do anything about the country's health care situation. They also bear responsibility for the invasion of Iraq, which, she says, has not made the country safer since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"My guess is that as close as Jim Ryun's votes have been to Bush that the last thing he needs is George Bush here campaigning for him," she said. "He's trying to distance himself from George Bush, but that's not going to be easy for him."
Ryun's campaign manager, Jeffrey Black, said the district's political climate is still friendly to Bush - and to Ryun, a Republican seeking his sixth congressional term who has supported the administration.
"Support for the president in our district is not as low as it is in the rest of the country," he said.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, have helped raise funds for Ryun so far, and the campaign has not felt the need to ask Bush, Black said.
In the 3rd District U.S. House race that includes eastern Lawrence, incumbent Democrat Dennis Moore is facing Republican nominee Chuck Ahner, a senior vice president and chief technology officer for PNC Bank Overland Park.
Because Ahner is a challenger, Bush is less likely to actively campaign in the district, said Bryan Sanders, a spokesman for Ahner's campaign.
But Ahner has been critical of the Washington status quo, particularly spending.
"Chuck believes we have to get our fiscal house in order," Sanders said. "He believes Bush ought to have vetoed some of the appropriations bills and really pressured Congress to cut back on wasteful spending."
Rebecca Black, a Moore spokeswoman, said the campaign had no comment on Bush's visit to the area because the president stopped in Missouri and not Kansas.
Cigler, the KU political scientist, said GOP leaders might believe it is a waste of resources to have Bush campaigning in any Kansas races with a Republican incumbent.
"It's hard to tell, but I would think none of these people need any help," he said of the incumbents.
'A big bird'
One Lawrence family stood on a platform Friday afternoon as Air Force One halted on the runway.
"Good grief that's a big bird. That's a big airplane," Bill Penny said.
The Pennys were able to tour Air Force One while Bush left to speak at the fundraiser. Their daughter Sarah, a 1995 Lawrence High School and 1999 Kansas University graduate, works as an aide in the Oval Office and has worked in the White House since June 2001.
Sarah's brother, Scott, who will soon leave for the University of Oregon on a track and field scholarship, admired the presidential jet before he toured it.
"It's kind of a symbol of the power of the U.S. It's definitely an icon for the country," he said.
Bush's motorcade returned to KCI about 6:30 p.m., and Bush posed for a photograph with the family of Tech. Sgt. David Crowe, the Air Force One crew chief, who is soon retiring. The family will move to Omaha from Maryland.
Election 2006 - Kansas races
More on the 2006 Elections in Kansas
- 6News video: Low turnout may result in new primary election date (08-30-06)
- 6News video: Candidate speaks at university forum (08-30-06)
- 6News video: Evolution supporters will hold board majority (08-02-06)
- 6News video: Snag-free night for primaries (08-02-06)
- 6News video: County puts new voting machines to test (08-01-06)
- 6News video: Praeger holds up over opponent (08-01-06)
- Low turnout prompts call for new primary date (08-31-06)
- Publisher blasts candidate for illegally stuffing newspapers (08-04-06)
- Election hailed as pro-evolution (08-03-06)
- New voting machines perform well on first test (08-03-06)
- Barnett wins GOP bid to take on Sebelius (08-02-06)
- Voter turnout among lowest in memory (08-02-06)
- Eudora takes plunge on pool (08-02-06)
- Praeger prevails in 'negative' contest (08-02-06)
- Primary election results
- See how the voting went in select races
- Campaign finance reports
- Statewide office
- Board of Education
- Election 2006 - Kansas races