Springfield State Journal Register

October 31, 2002

GOP sends out Bush tickets 
Outdoor rally at Old State Capitol planned 


WASHINGTON - President Bush's campaign stop in Springfield on Sunday apparently will be an invitation-only event.

While the White House still hasn't confirmed the visit, the Illinois
Republican Party is sending tickets by overnight mail to GOP county chairs. The location of the rally will be outdoors at the Old State Capitol.

Illinois will be the 11th state on Bush's final campaign swing, which begins today in South Dakota. With only a few days left before Tuesday's election, he is targeting states where Republicans are in close races.

In Illinois, he'll campaign for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, whose tight race with U.S. Rep. David Phelps, D-Eldorado, could be critical to Republican hopes of retaining control of the House. Reapportionment threw two incumbents into the same congressional district.

Bush will also stump for Attorney General Jim Ryan, who Republicans think shows signs of gaining on U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich, D-Chicago, in the race for governor.

"The president wants to make sure he is traveling to areas where he can make a difference," said one Republican source. "He is certainly visiting areas where there are competitive gubernatorial, Senate or House campaigns. As leader of the party, the president believes it is very important to do his part to help elect people who share his visions so that vision can be implemented."

Historically, the president's party loses seats in Congress in mid-term elections.

"The White House would like to defy history this year," its press secretary, Ari Fleischer, told reporters during Wednesday's briefing. "By all indications, that trend may be broken this cycle."

Fleischer went on to say, "Whether the Republicans will be able to gain seats remains unclear. "Certainly, the president hopes that will be the case."

Today, Bush is scheduled to travel to South Dakota, where there is a close Senate race, and to Indiana and West Virginia to weigh in on behalf of Republicans in competitive House races.

On Friday, he travels to Pennsylvania, where two House incumbents have been thrown together by redistricting. Then, it's on to New Hampshire and Kentucky. On Saturday, Bush plans to be in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

The events typically are hosted by the state Republican parties and open only to those bearing tickets. Ticketing helps organizers control crowd size and ensures protesters are kept at a distance.

Shimkus hopes the president's popularity will entice more of the undecided voters in his race to vote for him, Shimkus spokesman Steve Tomaszewski said. Shimkus' latest campaign poll showed him with a double-digit lead. While Phelps' aides contended the presidential visit was a sign that Shimkus was in trouble, Tomaszewski rejected the notion.

"If we were in such need ... he would have been here more often or
sooner," he said.

Jim Ryan, said in Springfield Wednesday that Bush's visit will be "a great boost for our ticket."

"It certainly will help me and Carl Hawkinson (the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor). It'll certainly help John Shimkus. I mean, I think its great that the president of the United States is coming here again. He came for me in May (in Chicago), and he's coming for the ticket now."

Political writer Bernard Schoenburg and Dean Olsen of the State Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.