No sooner does Tennessee GOP leaders complain about outgoing U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson's lack of support for the Republican who would replace him, Lamar Alexander, than Thompson steps up and cuts a TV commercial for him.
The 30-second spot has Thompson recalling how as a young prosecutor in 1979 he was asked by then-Gov. Alexander to help "clean up corruption" and appointed by him to investigate the clemency-for-cash deals cut by a previous gubernatorial administration. "We need Lamar's experience and integrity in Washington -- to represent our values and support President Bush," says Thompson, essentially endorsing Alexander.
"There aren't any plans for him to campaign with Alexander," says a Thompson staffer, who adds that Alexander hasn't asked, either.
Rep. Ed Bryant, whom Alexander defeated in the Republican primary, will campaign with the nominee over the next couple of weeks. Bryant's support is seen as more important in some ways than Thompson's, because of Bryant's credentials as a true conservative. Alexander has been portrayed as more of a moderate, and has spent the past several weeks reaching out to constituencies more natural to Bryant.
ON THE OREGON TRAIL
President Bush hits the West Coast on Thursday, seeking to raise more than $250,000 for Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, who is facing off against Democratic Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Smith has already raised more than $5 million in his bid for re-election, and is in the odd position of having the support of his Democratic colleague Sen. Ron Wyden.
At least the trip from Crawford to Medford, Ore., is on the taxpayer's dime. Bush is first expected to make a public appearance in Medford with Democrats and Republicans. He will speak about the importance of thinning forests to curb future wildfires and will tour regions of the state ravaged by wildfires.
From there, Bush does community outreach in Portland and then the fundraiser with Smith.
"Clinton was great at doing this stuff," says a Democratic National Committee staffer. "The White House would look for some issue Clinton could speak on, then get the taxpayers to cover the cost because it's issue oriented and bipartisan. Bush is getting good at it too."
Bush's swing west also includes appearances with California Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon.
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