President Bush will visit Pennsylvania this week to give a much-needed campaign boost to Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, who has been trailing Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in fundraising and in the polls.
Bush will headline a Swann fundraiser Wednesday in Lancaster, where donors will pay $10,000 for a private reception and photo opportunity with the president and $650 a person or $1,000 a couple for a general reception.
Earlier in the day, Bush is scheduled to tour a Harley-Davidson plant in York County, then participate in an economic forum that is closed to the public and the media.
The campaign appearance will be the president's first for Swann since the former Pittsburgh Steelers star announced his candidacy in January, and it comes as Bush faces growing opposition. An AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults taken last week found that his approval rating dropped to 33 percent, matching his low in May.
But as Swann campaigned in Harrisburg on Monday, he said he was not worried about Bush's flagging popularity.
"Why would I have a concern?" Swann said as he left a downtown furniture store. "The president's helping me raise funds, which is a very positive thing. This race is going to be about what's right for Pennsylvania, and that's the only thing that concerns me."
Bush previously appointed Swann as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Swann also served as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign's African-American steering committee in 2004.
Rendell campaign spokesman Dan Fee said Swann cannot distance himself from Bush, however.
"Lynn Swann was George Bush's hand-picked choice because they agree on almost every issue," Fee said.
Rendell has held a double-digit lead over Swann in recent independent polls. As of early June, the governor raised nearly $20 million _ less than half of what he spent in his 2002 campaign and roughly four times the amount that Swann had amassed.
Rendell's larger cache of campaign cash has enabled to him flood the airwaves with numerous television ads, while Swann has been unable to respond.
President's visit vital
Political analysts say taking advantage of the president's fundraising prowess, regardless of his approval rating, is crucial for Swann to become more competitive as fall approaches.
"Obviously, Bush is not popular, but Swann can't worry about that now," said Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "He needs the president to help him raise money and charge up the Republican base, which is demoralized."
Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said Bush's greatest strength for Swann is his ability to raise a large amount of money in a short time.
"It's about (Swann's) best bet in terms of raising funds," Borick said. "Even with the political baggage the president carries, the necessity of raising contributions in a quick period of time ... is paramount."
Swann campaign spokesman Leonardo Alcivar declined to estimate how much Wednesday's event would raise, saying only that it would be "several hundred thousand dollars."
If Swann is able to gather fundraising momentum in the ensuing weeks and months, he will be able to make up some ground with the voters, who will be paying closer attention to the race after Labor Day, said Thomas Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre.
"People will focus more on the election then," Baldino said. "But if you don't have the money to put the message out, it's all for naught."