Bush plans active campaign role for GOP

Image: U.S. President George W. Bush, Republican Presidential candidate John McCain
March 5: President George W. Bush shakes hands with Republican Presidential candidate John McCain in the White House Rose Garden.Jason Reed / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush will help Republican John McCain raise money later this month in Arizona. Beyond that, the White House isn't saying how much the two will campaign together.

The White House on Monday sidestepped a question about how much Bush will campaign with McCain but said the president would actively hit the trail in support of Republican candidates despite his low approval ratings and questions about whether his presence would help or hurt the likely GOP nominee.

"The president believes very strongly that, if we get out and take our message to voters, that we can be successful," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

Bush, who has not been with McCain since a Rose Garden event on March 5, will appear with the Arizona senator at a fundraiser May 27 in Phoenix.

Asked at the daily White House news briefing whether one could expect to see a lot of Bush and McCain together, Stanzel said: "I think you'll see the president out on the campaign trail quite a bit. We'll keep you posted on their events that they may have together."

McCain's Democrats rivals, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, have argued that a McCain administration would amount to a third Bush term.

Bush and McCain, bitter rivals in the 2000 GOP primary contest, had a lighthearted exchange about Bush's role in March, when McCain received the president's endorsement in the Rose Garden.

Bush offered to do whatever helped the most — campaign with McCain or stay away.

McCain declared himself "honored and humbled" to receive Bush's endorsement. He said he'd "be glad to have the president with me in any part of America ... as much as is keeping with his busy schedule."

As to Bush's low approval ratings, Stanzel noted, "it would be interesting to note the approval rating of Congress, as well, which is lower."

In the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll last month, 28 percent approved of the job Bush is doing, his lowest rating ever in the survey. Just 23 percent gave the Democratic-controlled Congress a positive grade.