Political bigwigs campaign in close races
By John Mercurio and Kathy Benz
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Wanna know where this year's closest, hottest, down-to-the-wire races are? It's easy -- just look to where political bigwigs from both parties are spending their time between today and Tuesday.
President Bush, for example, who spent Thursday stumping in tight House races in Indiana and West Virginia, heads for New Hampshire, the sight of close races for Senate and the House. Three days after he was asked not to attend the late Sen. Paul Wellstone's memorial service, Vice President Dick Cheney returns to Minnesota to campaign for Republicans Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty.
On the Democratic side, Bill Clinton continues to steal the show, headlining events in Michigan and Maryland with the Democrats' gubernatorial nominees, both of them women. The country's other powerful Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, will be kicking off a statewide, three-day, nine-city bus tour with fellow South Dakotan, Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.
Welcome to November.
•President Bush travels to New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Bush starts his day in Pennsylvania at a Harrisburg airport rally with GOP gubernatorial nominee Mike Fisher and Rep. George Gekas, a Republican. Bush then leaves for Portsmouth, New Hampshire to campaign for GOP Senate nominee John Sununu, the congressman in a tight race with Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat. Bush leaves New Hampshire for Louisville, Kentucky, where he makes one more pitch for GOP Rep. Anne Northup. Election-eve polls once again show Democrats challenger closing in on Northup. Republican Geoff Davis, who is running an uphill challenge to Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas in a nearby district, has been invited to give a four-minute speech at the rally.
•Later on today, Mike Fisher, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania, will attend a Delaware Valley Veteran's Home dedication in Philadelphia with acting Gov. Mark Schweiker, a Republican, and GOP Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. Fisher's Democratic rival, Ed Rendell, who's sitting on a double-digit lead, has a light campaign schedule. He will greet commuters at subways and meet with senior citizens at a retirement home in Philadelphia.
•Vice President Dick Cheney starts his day in Indianapolis, Indiana with Republican House nominee Brose McVey, who's running against Rep. Julia Carson, a Democrat. He campaigns in Minnesota for GOP Senate nominee Norm Coleman at Hermantown Middle School in Hermantown. Tim Pawlenty, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, will also attend. Other Republicans, including state auditor candidate Patricia Awada; secretary of state candidate Mary Kiffmeyer and attorney general candidate Tom Kelly, will also attend. Coleman's official schedule says he'll attend a debate tonight in St. Paul, sponsored by KSTP-TV, although his new Democratic foe, Walter Mondale, has not confirmed he would attend. (President Bush will be here Sunday). Cheney next heads for South Dakota, where he stumps for the top three Republican candidates, Senate nominee John Thune, House nominee Bill Janklow, and Bill Rounds, the GOP gubernatorial nominee. The vice presidents calls it a day in Colorado, where he headlines an rally for Sen. Wayne Allard and House nominee Bob Beauprez, a former state GOP chairman.
•Former President Bill Clinton will return to Michigan today where he'll headline a midday get-out-the-vote rally at a Detroit church with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jennifer Granholm, who leads Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, a Republican, by double digits in new polls. Later today, he'll travel to Landover, Maryland to stump for Maryland Democrats' beleaguered gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Townsend's running mate, Charles Larson, and state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen, who is challenging GOP Rep. Connie Morella, will also be there. Both Townsend and Van Hollen need large Democratic voter turnout in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, particularly among black voters. New independent polls show Townsend trailing GOP Rep. Bob Ehrlich narrowly.
•House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, will be in Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward counties to check out election preparations by both localities. The two Congressmen will be taking notes on the counties' poll training, voting systems and voter education.
•Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will campaign today with his top priority, Democratic Senator and fellow South Dakotan Tim Johnson. Daschle and his wife, Linda, will join Johnson and family at 2:15 CST to kick off a nine-city bus tour. Daschle will remain on the bus tour for Johnson's entire three-day tour.
•Arkansas Sen. Tim Hutchinson, perhaps the most vulnerable Republican Senator up for re-election this year, will hold regional press conferences in a fly-around across the state today. Hutchinson will touch down in Fort Smith, Texarkana, El Dorado, Little Rock, Jonesboro and West Memphis. Recent polls show Hutchinson trailing his Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Mark Pryor, albeit narrowly.
•National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston will be the featured speaker at an NRA "Vote Freedom First" rally in Nashville, Tennessee for GOP Senate nominee Lamar Alexander and gubernatorial nominee Van Hilleary. The NRA has endorsed Hilleary in every House race since 1992, including this year's race for Governor, and the NRA has given Hilleary a grade of "A" for his voting record in Congress.
•Republican Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole's bus tour ends tomorrow in North Carolina, but first lady Laura Bush will stop by this evening and make an appearance with Dole in Raleigh. Dole's Democratic opponent is Erskine Bowles.
•California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, unveiled a new 60-second radio spot Thursday that features a testimonial from former President Bill Clinton. "Gray Davis is one of the best," Clinton says in the spot, set to air initially in the Los Angeles radio market. "Governor Davis has increased funding for education by 30 percent and he's put much of that money into inner city schools. He's done a fine job and he'll keep working to expand opportunity for all Californians." Davis will be joined at 2 p.m. PST by Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn and several local elected officials to make what aides called an "important" campaign announcement. Davis appears to have pulled ahead of Republican Bill Simon, but his the race remains tight.
•Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, and Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan will begin their 14-city, 3-day bus tour from Ft. Walton Beach and end in Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday night.
•National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Virginia, and Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tennessee, will co-host a fundraising coffee for Janice Bowling, who's running an uphill race in Tennessee's 4th district. State Sen. Lincoln Davis, a Democrat, is favored over Bowling in the new 4th.
•Colorado Senate candidate Tom Strickland, a Democrat, will continue his statewide bus tour today. He will be joined by state Attorney General Ken Salazar and former Denver Mayor and Clinton Transportation Secretary Federico Pena throughout the day campaigning in the Hispanic community. Hispanics make up over 20 percent of Colorado voters, aides note. Strickland is locked in a tight race with Sen. Wayne Allard, a first-term Republican.
•In Missouri, GOP Senate nominee Jim Talent and other Republican officials will continue their own bus tour, making stops in Joplin, Columbia, Hannibal and St. Louis. Talent is locked in a tight race with Sen. Jean Carnahan, a Democrat, for the remaining four years of the late Mel Carnahan's term.
•Doug Forrester, the GOP nominee for New Jersey's Senate seat, campaigns at an Atlantic City senior center this morning. Forrester has fallen behind ex-Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, in recent polls. Meanwhile, the New Jersey GOP has asked a judge overseeing the Senate race for a 10-day extension for voters who file military and overseas absentee ballots. GOP attorneys filed the order Tuesday with Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg. A hearing was set for today.
•In Texas, Democratic Senate nominee Ron Kirk campaigns in Dallas, Houston and McGregor. Kirk is trailing Republican John Cornyn slightly in recent polls.
•House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, will travel to Tennessee to raise money for Janice Bowling, the GOP nominee in the race to succeed Rep. Van Hilleary, the gubernatorial candidate. Bowling trails state Sen. Lincoln Davis, the Democratic nominee. Hastert will speak at a $500-a-couple fund raiser at the home of GOP Rep. John Duncan Jr. Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and GOP Rep. Ed Bryant raised money for Bowling on Wednesday at a $1,000-a-person fundraiser in Nashville.
•New York Gov. George Pataki, a two-term Republican, campaigns at a senior center in the Bronx.