President Bush on Monday helped Republicans raise $27 million toward the fall congressional elections, acknowledging that the unfinished war in Iraq remains a top concern in a difficult political season.
“It is important to have members of the United States Congress who will not raise the white flag of surrender in the war on terror,” Bush told donors at a fundraiser sponsored by House and Senate GOP campaign committees.
He criticized proposals, such as are being advocated by some leading Democrats in Congress, for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops. “An early withdrawal would be a defeat for the United States,” Bush told an audience of about 5,000 attendees at the Washington Convention Center.
Organizers said the event raised $27 million — $15 million for Senate candidates and $12 million for House candidates.
“We’re prepared for an aggressive, effective campaign this year,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who spoke before Bush, told the gathering.
Bush told his cheering, well-heeled audience, “We’re going to keep the House and we’re going to keep the Senate thanks to all of you here.”
“We’re going to win the war on terror — if we don’t lose our nerve,” Bush said.
Polls show declining public support for the war in Iraq, which is weighing down Republicans on the ballot.
But while Republican candidates have been eagerly accepting the fundraising help that Bush can offer, his presence on the campaign trail has not been enthusiastically welcomed by all Republicans, particularly those in tough races.
Democrats have sought to tie Republican candidates to Bush administration policy on the war and on other contentious issues.
“At a time when our troops are fighting bravely in Iraq with no clear plan for victory, and the Republican-led Congress has abandoned much needed comprehensive immigration reform, the president has made raising millions from special interests his number one priority,” said Karen Finney, communications director of the Democratic National Committee.
Still, Bush’s hand has been strengthened by several weeks of good news from Iraq and domestically.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, speaking of Iraq, told the president, “We will stay with you until our job is done.”
“We’ve got five months to remind Americans why they elected us,” Frist added.