President throws weight behind Musgrave in deadlocked race between 2 CSU alums
GREELEY – America will be safer if Marilyn Musgrave is re-elected, President George W. Bush told thousands of Republican Party supporters at a campaign rally in Greeley Saturday morning.
“If you want to be protected, you send Marilyn Musgrave back to the United States Congress,” the president said to booming applause.
Bush stumped for several Republican candidates during his brief visit to Fort Collins’ eastern neighbor, including gubernatorial contender Bob Beauprez, but the focus of the event was Musgrave, the conservative 4th Congressional District incumbent locked in a slugfest with Democrat Angie Paccione.
Polls show the race between the two CSU alums is a toss up.
At a time when many Republicans nationwide are distancing themselves from Bush, the Republican giant remains a rock star among his core base, like the 5,000 or so supporters who packed the Island Grove Regional Park Events Center.
And what better way for a rock star to make an entrance than with Van Halen’s “Right Now” blasting in the background to throngs of supporters waving pro-Republican signs.
Musgrave, the president said, is clearly the best choice for ranchers, farmers and those in the agriculture industry.
“She understands your values, she knows what you’re thinking,” he said.
John Straayer, a CSU political science professor, said the president’s visit could end up hurting Musgrave.
“It’s a gamble because Bush’s approval ratings are extraordinarily low,” he said. “Republicans know full and well they’re in trouble.”
The president stuck to generic attacks on the Democratic Party, not mentioning Paccione or any other Democrat by name.
Bush kept an eye toward the national audience as well, articulating several Republican Party stances to energize voters in an effort to keep Republicans from losing Congress, which some observers believe will happen Tuesday.
“We’re going to win this election because our values and ideals don’t change with the latest poll or focus group,” Bush said.
He defended his decision to topple former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, saying the world is safer and better off without the tyrant. He brought up the 2001 terrorist attacks, and said a president must be proactive in ferreting out threats.
“We’re in a global struggle,” he said. “For the sake of our children, we must take those threats seriously”
He added that America’s enemies have “a totalitarian vision of darkness.”
The president reiterated his commitment to sticking it out in Iraq in the face of growing criticism by members of both parties to pull out. Iraq is as deadly now as it’s ever been – last month more than 100 Americans were killed, along with thousands of Iraqis slaughtered in bombings and executions by sectarian factions.
But now’s not the time to end the occupation. When is, he didn’t say.
“We’re not going to run in the face of thugs and assassins,” he said. “If we were to leave Iraq before the job was done, the enemy would follow us here.”
And, of course, “activist judges” were mentioned – Democrats want them, Republicans don’t – and taxes, too.
“If you vote Democratic, you’re voting for more taxes,” he said. “If you vote Republican, you’re voting for lower taxes and a strong economy.”
Bush also played on the perception that he’s a strong, decisive leader, and that Democrats aren’t.
“I’ve been listening for the Democrats’ plan for success,” he said. “There is national silence. They don’t have a plan.
“Harsh criticism is not a plan for victory.”
The theme of the event was clear: Democrats are weak on national security and want to raise taxes, Republicans aren’t and don’t.
“There is a clear difference between Democrats and Republicans,” Musgrave said before Bush spoke. “The stakes have never been higher.”
Republican Sen. Wayne Allard said his party stands for a more secure America, whereas Democrats want a “quick withdrawal.”
And Bush’s speech centered around Iraq as well.
“The best way to protect you is find those enemies overseas so we do not have to face them at home,” he said.
Prior to Bush, Republican Bob Schaffer, a former congressman and current state board of education candidate, lamented Democrats’ campaign methods.
“There’s a bunch of mean people on the other side,” he said. “If they can scare people, they think they can get votes.”
News managing editor Vimal Patel can be reached at email@example.com.