Bush Slams Democrats In Missouri

President Bush encourages the crowd to vote for Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., left, during a rally in Springfield, Mo. Friday, Nov. 3, 2006.
President Bush, working a southwest Missouri campaign crowd like a college football yell leader, blasted Democrats on Friday, saying they have no plan to keep Americans safe from terrorists.

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 latest CBS News/New York Times poll — 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:

  • Illinois Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs while serving in Iraq, failed to win the backing of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The group's political action committee is instead backing the Republican candidate, state Senator Peter Roskam, who has no military experience. Duckworth says she was never contacted by the organization. The former Army chopper pilot turned Democratic candidate calls the decision "unfortunate."
  • Virginia Senator George Allen has picked up a last-minute endorsement as he heads into the homestretch of his tight race with Democrat Jim Webb. About 20 ministers from mostly-black churches endorsed the Republican, citing his support for an amendment on the ballot next week that would ban same-sex marriage. Race has been a factor in the campaign. Allen had to apologize for using the word "macaca" to refer to a Webb supporter of Indian descent. And Allen acquaintances from his college days claimed he used a common racial slur for blacks, which Allen denied.
  • Former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley praised current incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez on Friday for the Democrat's vote against sending troops to Iraq as Menendez continued to fend off ethical charges from Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. Menendez angrily answered questions about a newspaper report that he has a defense attorney representing him in a federal probe.
  • Minnesota Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch denied a report that he called a male reporter "a Republican whore." Forum Communications Co., which owns several Minnesota newspapers, reported that Hatch lashed out at a reporter questioning him about a gaffe by his running mate, Judi Dutcher.
  • A contentious U.S. Senate race is a big reason Tennesseans are flocking to the polls and giving the state its highest early voter turnout "ever," state election coordinator Brook Thompson said Friday. Final figures show more than 867,000 people voted during the early voting period that began Oct. 18 and ended Thursday, Thompson said. That's a 49 percent increase over the same period during the 2002 midterm elections, the last comparable election.
  • Actor Ben Affleck campaigned for the Democratic challengers in two hotly contested congressional races Friday, becoming the latest in a string of celebrities — including author Frank McCourt and actors Paul Newman and Danny Glover have — who have stumped for Connecticut candidates.
  • Democratic Senate candidate Ben Cardin criticized a Republican Party handbook for election-day poll watchers as a GOP attempt to suppress voter turnout in Maryland and challenged Republican Michael Steele at a debate Friday to repudiate the call by party officials to aggressively challenge the credentials of voters. Steele did not respond to Cardin's statement during the debate. Asked about it afterward, he told reporters, "To be honest with, you I have not seen it."

    Democrats need a gain of six seats to reclaim control of the 100-member Senate. Although polls suggest their chances of winning the Senate are not as good as winning control of the House, 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.