Press Gaggle by Senior Administration Official
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Elko, Nevada
1:38 P.M. MST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right. Fire away.
Q: Can you just go over the rest of the schedule, and the stops he's making, and why he's going there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're heading, right now, obviously, to Elko, to support Dean Heller and the Republican ticket there. He'll be with Jim Gibbons, running for governor, and John Ensign, obviously, running for reelection.
Tomorrow we head to Missouri. We'll do two stops there. We'll be in Springfield and we'll be in Joplin, Missouri, and then we head up to Iowa, actually to Le Mars, Iowa, just north of Sioux City, a few miles, for Jim Nussle and the Republican ticket there. And then Saturday he is in Colorado for Marilyn Musgrave. And then down to the ranch.
And then Sunday we are in Nebraska and Topeka, Kansas. Nebraska for Adrian Smith and the ticket, and Topeka for Jim Ryun who is up for reelection. Then finally on Monday we'll be in Florida, in Northwest Florida, and Arkansas for Asa Hutchinson, and then finally in Texas, in Dallas, for Rick Perry.
Q: Who are you promoting in Florida?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Charlie Crist and the ticket there, the entire ticket. These are all victory events, they will benefit the entire ticket.
Q: In Missouri, is McCaskill cutting in Talent's rural base?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Certainly if you look at what the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has done, they have made an effort to focus a lot of their resources there, as has our campaign. So it's important that we turn out the Republican vote there, and certainly that's the purpose of our visit, is to focus on GOTV.
Q: What's the President's relevance right now? He's going to Republican states, all 10 states that he carried. So he's got a pretty narrow mission here, doesn't he, in the final days?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we're focusing his energy on places where he can best turn out the vote for Republican candidates. These are all races that are close. These are all races that are likely going to come down to turnout. And so that's the nature of all these visits.
Q: But he's a liability in some of your other states that are tight, like in Ohio or even Tennessee.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He has been in all those states. He's campaigned with all those candidates. He's helped raise a lot of resources. He's done more events in 2002 -- I'm sorry, in 2006 cycle than he did in the 2002 cycle. We specifically focused in areas where we knew would be competitive two years ago, early, to make sure they had the resources, and now this is about Republican turnout. These are all competitive races and areas where he can really step up the vote.
Q: A question about Gibbons. Is he concerned about campaigning for Gibbons, given the ethical cloud that's hanging over him right now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we're focused, obviously, on turnout up in that part of the state, and particularly that congressional district. Jim Gibbons has addressed his issues. He's been a great member of Congress, he'll be a great governor. The President is happy to campaign with him.
Q: You're not concerned about the charges that he's facing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's addressed those charges, and I'll let his words speak for themselves. The President is happy to campaign with him.
Q: What was the experience after the President went into Sherwood's district? Did you have any polling or any --
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Q: Anyway, he's going into this district, Jim Gibbon's district, where there's this ethical cloud hanging over. He went into Don Sherwood's district. And so I'm wondering what the impact was when he did that before?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think it was certainly a positive impact for the Congressman. He remains in a very tough race. He was in a tough race before the visit. He remains in a tough race today. Certainly, that was an important opportunity to raise funds for the Congressman's campaign, and for the victory effort in the state, which will benefit the entire ticket. And so we'll see what happens on Election Day.
Q: Has there been any polling or anything to show if there was a bump after his visit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have seen internal things, internal surveys, which I really can't comment on.
Q: Why is the President going to campaign for Nussle, who is running for governor? Isn't he worried about members of Congress?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's campaigning, you'll see -- first of all, these are all -- every one of these events will benefit every Republican in that area. He's campaigning for members of the House. He's campaigning for members of the Senate. He's campaigning for candidates for governor on this final swing, but he did that throughout the cycle. And Jim Nussle is an important race. It's an excellent opportunity for our party to pick up a governor's mansion this cycle, and this is the area of the state where historically Republicans who don't succeed statewide usually under-perform, in Western Iowa, under-perform in turning out their base. So this is a good opportunity.
And I'll remind you, in 2004, this is where the President went at the closing days of the campaign which really boosted our -- his ability to win Iowa.
Q: Do you see some areas of additional spending on both sides, like you know, you guys are spending in Michigan and --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And Maryland.
Q: -- and Maryland.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And New Jersey.
Q: But where do you see the hottest action right now? I mean for you guys, is Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia still the firewall? Has that changed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Certainly those are the three most competitive Republican states today. I would argue, based on everything I've seen, that Conrad Burns has really made great inroads in his election, and is now tied, essentially, today. We are hopeful and believe strongly, as these events over time have proven out, will really be a good boost for the turnout. So today's visit was very timely. But, you know, we're optimistic about New Jersey, and we find when we're competitive dollars-wise with Democrats, given the ethical clouds hanging over the current senator, that's a real good opportunity.
Michael Steele is within striking distance. There's a lot of mixed polling out of Michigan. I think that's still a tough race, but the NRSC is invested there in the final days. The DSCC has countered in Arizona. It strikes me that that was more of a way to say, well, since they went up in Maryland and Michigan we'd better do something else to go on offensive.
Q: But of all these places you're in in these few days -- you mentioned Florida being there for the governor's race, and the ticket, you talked about congressional races -- these are two Senate races in Montana and Missouri. If I'm missing something, those are the only two Senate races you're diving into at this point. Are these the two that you fear most?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: These are the two where we believe the President can have the biggest impact on turnout. And given the calculation you make in terms of all the schedule and where you need to be and how to best boost turnout and who needs help, those are the two where it made the best sense to travel to.
Q: Speaking of calculations, a market like this, you go to a market -- the candidates have to spend a lot of money to get the President here, money they're not spending on TV. In a market like Billings, a spot costs a lot less than New York, New Jersey, and all that. How do you strike that balance?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a very good question. And certainly when you think of -- in '02, we were under different campaign finance laws. So a lot of these parties used soft dollars -- used a split, soft dollars-hard dollars split to pay for these events. And now they are all hard dollar events. And so it's another reason why when you're in a particularly Republican area, as a few of these visits are, for the Congress at least, you have -- your dollar, your bang for your buck goes a lot farther with an event like this than in certain other parts of -- other competitive states. Does that make sense?
Q: I would think it would be a better bang for the buck in a larger market where a media buy would cost a lot more.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I actually think the opposite because it's the -- in a smaller community, you get so much more buzz. You get -- you go into Philadelphia, you might get a little clip the night before, you might get a few seconds of news that day. You go into western Nebraska and you get three days of coverage, wall-to-wall coverage.
Q: He's hammering away on the Iraq war pretty hard. There are some Democrats who think that will help their turnout. What do you think about that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's important to remind people of the stakes in the election. And that's exactly what the President does. The country -- this is the most important issue in the campaign and certainly many people have expressed their vote -- they're going to the polls and they will be voting on this issue. It's really important that he make the case and talks about the stakes and why it's critical for the country to succeed.
Q: What about independent voters? Most of them are cutting toward the Democratic side this time, according to the polls, so far. How do you assess that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, certainly we're heading into a midterm where you'll have much lower turnout and they will be a factor in races, there's no question about it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there are several keys in an election. I would argue the most important thing in a midterm is turning out your base. And independents, certainly you can't take for granted. They will play a role. The question is what percent of them will turn out.
END 1:49 P.M. MST
George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273396