Mr. Bush said Democrats calling for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq aren't unpatriotic, just wrong. He said Democrats who voted against legislation to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists, the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program and the Patriot Act don't understand the stakes in the war on terror.
"If they say they want to win the war on terror, but call for America to pull out of what al Qaeda says is the central front in this war, ask them this question: 'What's your plan?'" Mr. Bush said at a rally for Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, who is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Claire McCaskill, the state auditor, in one of the tightest races in the nation.
"The truth is the Democrats can't answer that question," Mr. Bush said. "Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory. Second-guessing is not a strategy.
"We have a plan for victory. We have a plan to secure this country, and part of our plan is to send Jim Talent back to the United States Senate."
Several thousand GOP supporters cheered Mr. Bush as he strode into the darkened Springfield Exposition Center, where volunteers handed out signs that said "Cards fans for Talent," a reference to the St. Louis Cardinals' World Series victory.
Missouri's Senate race is intertwined with a ballot measure that would engrave the right to conduct embryonic stem cell research into the state constitution. McCaskill supports it; Talent opposes it. Mr. Bush didn't mention it.
Mr. Bush, who is making two campaign stops in Missouri before traveling to Iowa and Colorado, is on a six-day campaign swing that ends on Election Day.
But given his low job approval rating — 34 percent in the latestpoll — just how much help is the president?
"If the president were popular in states like Montana, Virginia and Tennessee, Democrats would not have very good chances of winning those Senate seats. But the Democrats do have a good chance," said CBS News political analyst Stu Rothenberg.
In the CBS/Times poll, 53 percent said Mr. Bush's support for a candidate would not make any difference in their vote.
In other news from the campaign trail:
Democrats need a gain of six seats to reclaim control of the 100-member Senate. Although polls suggest their chances of winningare not as good as winning control of , they are widely expected to pick up some seats — if not enough to wrest control from Republicans, then inching closer to the 50-50 split that existed for a while early in Mr. Bush's first term.
Democrats expect to beat Republican incumbents in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and possibly Rhode Island. The big battlegrounds now are Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia, all held by Republicans.
Also still in play are New Jersey, where Menendez holds a modest lead in polls; and Montana, where Democrats hope to gain a GOP seat but where Republicans were claiming the gap was narrowing in favor of incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign effort, said he was optimistic about adding Montana and other states with GOP Senate incumbents to the Democratic column.
Schumer claimed unexpectedly strong support for a Democratic challenger in early voting in a race in Arizona, and said it was "harbinger of a wave" that would benefit his party
"The election is becoming more and more a referendum on change," Schumer said.
Democrats say they are ahead in many races because of the public's growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. Polls show that a clear majority of Americans see the war as a mistake and far fewer support the president's handling of it.
Schumer said Thursday that the White House is playing into the Democratic Party's hands.
"In an effort to strengthen their base, they keep reminding the public that there's not going to be any change in Iraq," Schumer said.