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Bush begins 10-state marathon

Finishes up trip hours before polls open

President Bush waves as he leaves the White House on Saturday aboard Marine One.
President Bush waves as he leaves the White House on Saturday aboard Marine One.

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Many voters will continue with older voting technology, while newer methods are being tested around the country. CNN's Kate Snow reports.
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Bush begins a three-day, 10-state campaign marathon Saturday aimed at helping Republicans capture control of Congress and keeping his brother in the Florida governor's mansion.

The 11-stop trip takes Bush to states with five of the closest Senate races, including Georgia, Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri and Arkansas, any of which could help erase the Democrats' one-seat advantage in the chamber and put it back into Republican hands.

He also aims to help some of the most endangered House Republicans, including Rep. John Shimkus in Illinois and Iowa's Rep. Jim Leach, whose races are crucial to Republican hopes of keeping or extending their House majority.

Bush will spend Saturday night in Tampa, Florida, to help his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, fend off an unexpectedly strong challenge from opponent Bill McBride in a race Democrats call their top priority.

In one sign of the race's importance, former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to campaign for McBride in Miami Saturday night as both parties roll out their big guns.

Bush begins barnstorming Saturday morning in Blountville, Tennessee, in an appearance designed to give a shot in the arm to Republican Rep. Van Hilleary's neck-in-neck gubernatorial race against Democrat Phil Bredesen, the former mayor of Nashville.

Later, he will stop in Atlanta and Savannah as he tries to help Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss overcome the narrow but tightening lead held by incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland.

Florida battleground

The president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, is in a closely watched, tight race with challenger Bill McBride.
The president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, is in a closely watched, tight race with challenger Bill McBride.

The president winds up the day at a rally in Tampa, Florida, the battleground of the disputed 2000 presidential election that sent Bush to the White House, but left a bitter taste with Democrats now eager to exact revenge on his brother.

In a poll released Thursday, the younger Bush held an eight-point lead over McBride, a Vietnam veteran who gave up a partnership in the state's largest law firm to make his first run for public office. But the Florida governor is taking no chances.

McBride got a bounce after his surprise victory over former Attorney General Janet Reno in September's Democratic primary, but lost momentum after Jeb Bush launched ads suggesting McBride would fund school improvements by raising sales taxes or creating a state income tax.

With his time at a premium ahead of the election, Bush will spend the night in Tampa, a decision that all but guarantees extensive media coverage for his brother both Saturday night and Sunday morning in the local television markets.

Bush was in Aberdeen, South Dakota, with Senate candidate Rep. John Thune late in the week.  He's to return Sunday for another appearance.
Bush was in Aberdeen, South Dakota, with Senate candidate Rep. John Thune late in the week. He's to return Sunday for another appearance.

On Sunday, Bush flies to Springfield, Illinois, where Rep. Shimkus is in a seesawing race against incumbent Democratic Rep. David Phelps. Then it's on to Minnesota to lend a hand to Republican Norm Coleman's nip-and-tuck race against former Vice President Walter Mondale, who stepped in last week after Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash.

The president also plans his second visit in four days to South Dakota, where first-term Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson and third-term Republican Rep. John Thune are dead even.

On Monday, he will address rallies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, St. Charles, Missouri, Bentonville, Arkansas, and Dallas, Texas, before repairing to his Crawford, Texas, ranch. After voting in the flyspeck central Texas town, he heads to Washington Tuesday.



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