State News

McCrory campaign banking on unpopular president

Posted June 20, 2008 4:03 a.m. EDT
Updated June 23, 2008 9:27 a.m. EDT

— Security was tight in a north Raleigh neighborhood Friday in advance of a visit from President George W. Bush.

Bush scheduled the trip to North Carolina to raise money for Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory's gubernatorial campaign. He arrived in Raleigh at about 4:30 p.m. Friday for the private event at the home of North Hills developer John Kane.

Kane's neighborhood was cordoned off to keep the media and non-residents out

While in North Carolina, Bush will also present a Clayton teenager with the President's Volunteer Service Award.

McCrory faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue in November's election. A recent WRAL News poll shows the two locked in a dead heat five months before the election.

McCrory joking grabbed a broom from Kane late Friday morning to help sweep the driveway before Bush's arrival. A white tent was set up on Kane's front lawn.

"We ought to welcome him, and it's an honor for me. It's an honor for the state, and it's an honor for Raleigh," McCrory said.

McCrory has been an active campaigner for Bush in the past, speaking at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

More than 100 people were expected to pay at least $4,000 each to attend the Raleigh fundraiser. Donors can give no more than that amount to the McCrory campaign, but they can give more to the party.

It was unclear how much the event would raise.

Bush planned to leave Raleigh and head back to Washington, D.C., by about 7 p.m.

Democrats are using McCrory's support of Bush in their campaign against him. In the latest WRAL News poll, 50 percent of those surveyed rated the president's performance as "poor," and his approval numbers are even lower nationally.

"I'm not going to run away from anyone who wants to lend support to what I want to do for the future of North Carolina," McCrory said.

On Thursday, the state Democratic Party unveiled a video on YouTube.com that highlighted McCrory's statements in recent years, including some during the four-way GOP primary in which he won the gubernatorial nomination May 6.

If McCrory were elected, he would support what Democrats call the failed policies of the president on children's health care and the environment, the party said.

"I think (voters) also understand that there's some real PR consequences to having George Bush in your state campaigning for your Republican nominee for governor," party Chairman Jerry Meek said.

Democratic strategist Gary Pearce knows the dilemma of banking on an unpopular president. When he directed John Edwards' 1998 U.S. Senate campaign, he welcomed an unpopular Bill Clinton to town. Fundraising outweighed the Monica Lewinsky scandal at the time, he said.

"I said at the time we had 600,000 good reasons to do it because that's how much money we raised, and that money enabled us to fight back," Pearce said. "If I'm in the party of an unpopular president, I've got that problem anyway. So, what you've got to weigh against is, he can help raise money to fight back."

 

McCrory and Perdue will face off Saturday for the first time in the campaign at a forum in Atlantic Beach sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association. The event also will feature U.S. Senate candidates Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan.

Before Bush's trip to North Carolina, Perdue wrote him a letter to express her displeasure at his budget proposal, which eliminates funding for career and technical education. The plan would cost North Carolina more than $35 million that had been used to enhance high school math and science programs, she said.

"This is an extremely bad idea," Perdue wrote.