Friday, November 11, 2005

AP Wire | 11/09/2005 | Bush to appear in Pennsylvania minus Santorum

AP Wire | 11/09/2005 | Bush to appear in Pennsylvania minus Santorum: "Bush to appear in Pennsylvania minus Santorum

Associated Press
WASHINGTON - President Bush will appear at a Veterans Day event in Pennsylvania on Friday with the state's moderate Republican senior senator and a Democratic congressman but without the state's conservative junior senator, who is fighting a tough bid for re-election.

A prior commitment is keeping Sen. Rick Santorum, the Senate's No. 3 Republican, from joining Bush, said Robert Traynham, Santorum's press secretary.

Santorum agreed several weeks ago to speak at the American Legion Veterans Day luncheon in Philadelphia and he intends to keep that commitment, Traynham said. He is to speak at noon, the same time Bush is to be 120 miles away at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Monroe County.

The state's senior senator, Arlen Specter, and Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a Democrat whose district includes the depot, are expected to attend.

When asked if Santorum was intentionally staying away from Bush, Traynham said, "The senator looks forward to having the president come to Pennsylvania as we get closer to next year's election."

Santorum said Wednesday he welcomed the prospect of eventual appearances with Bush, saying, "He can come anytime he wants."

Democrats, however, said Santorum was clearly putting distance between himself and the beleaguered president.

"If President Bush was popular, Rick Santorum would be standing right up next to him," said Jay Reiff, campaign manager for Santorum's likely Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr.

A Quinnipiac University poll last month showed Santorum 18 points behind Casey.

The news about Friday's schedule conflict comes one day after Republican Jerry Kilgore lost the Virginia governor's race to Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine. Bush did a last-minute campaign stop for Kilgore, and Democrats say Kilgore's loss is proof that voters are disenchanted with Bush and Republican policies.

Bush raised $1.5 million for Santorum at a Pennsylvania fundraiser in June.

But in recent weeks, the senator has criticized some Bush administration moves. Most notably, he refused to endorse Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, calling the White House lawyer and Bush loyalist "a blank slate."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said Bush has long said that if he can help a congressional candidate, he would. But Mehlman acknowledged that some Republicans might believe it would be better if Bush did not campaign in their state or district.

Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which helps elect moderate Republicans, said that in light of Kilgore's loss, Santorum must reach out to progressive Republicans.

"If the election was tomorrow, I don't think it would help to have the president go into Pennsylvania," Resnick said."

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