Gov. Bush goes to Washington
June 22, 1999
Web posted at: 10:32 p.m. EDT (0232 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 22) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2000, came to Washington Tuesday, performing a delicate dance with an unpopular GOP-controlled Congress and holding what appeared to be the biggest presidential fund-raiser the nation's capital has ever seen.
Asked by a reporter Tuesday afternoon why is there so much support for him in Congress, Bush responded, "It means that there's a lot of grassroots support for my candidacy."
Gov. George W. Bush was on Capitol Hill Tuesday meeting with Republican senators and representatives
Bush did not hold any photo ops with Republican senators and representatives. Applause could be heard from behind the closed doors.
"I believe I'm going to be here to work with them for a better tomorrow. I know I've got a long way to go. But I'm really pleased with the support I've received inside this building. The best way to convey my thanks is to look them each in the eye and say thank you very much," Bush said after his meeting with GOP lawmakers.
Capitol Hill is tricky ground for Bush. Republicans are in charge and he's a Republican. He's riding high in the polls. But as a group, his Senate and House colleagues are not. He is running as a compassionate conservative. Democrats have spent years painting congressional Republicans as hard-hearted
Plus, they are part of the Washington establishment and Bush is making clear that's what he's running against.
"If I'm fortunate enough to be the nominee, to square off against Vice President (Al) Gore, there'll be a huge difference between him and me. He's a Washington D.C. person. He thinks Washington has got all the answers. I don't," Bush said at an earlier campaign stop in Richmond, Virginia.
But the bottom line is Capitol Hill Republicans need Bush a lot more than he needs them.
After all a rising tide lifts all boats and a popular presidential candidate may help Republicans hold on to the House and Senate. So no one was surprised that Tuesday's reviews were rave. This is one tide battered Republicans are glad to ride.
'Sucking the oxygen right out of the air'
Bush capped his day Washington with a major fund-raiser -- one that appeared to produce record setting totals.
Speaking before an enthusiastic crowd of 2,000 supporters and lobbyists, Bush declared, "I'm proud to be a compassionate conservative. On this ground I will take my stand."
At $1,000 per person to attend the event -- which featured hot dogs, hamburgers and brownies -- the Bush campaign may have pulled in $2 million. Final figures were not available.
"It really has exceeded all our expectations," Karen Hughes, a Bush spokeswoman, said earlier in the day.
Many of those attending were lobbyists hoping to cement a White House connection.
"I must admit, there's a little bit of 'this guy smells like a winner.' And that's aiding, I think, the cash flow tonight," says Ron Kaufman, a friend of the governor.
In the first three months of this year Bush raised nearly $800,000 from lawyers and lobbyists -- nearly 12 percent of his total. The front-runner effect also is working on the Democrats' side. Al Gore has raised $1.7 million from lawyers and lobbyists, more than 20 percent of his total.
Bush is raising money at a blistering pace, including $800,000 at a Boston event last week. He has had eight fund-raisers this month in locations from Houston and Dallas to Chicago and St. Louis. Just Tuesday Bush began in Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina for breakfast before continuing to Richmond, Virginia, for lunch.
It has Republican rivals gasping, because as one Bush fund-raiser put it, "we're sucking the oxygen right out of the air."
"Gov. Bush is taking in a whole bunch of money that other folks are not taking in," said Kaufman "This man is drawing numbers and drawing money like nobody's ever seen before."
Between now and June 30, Bush plans nearly a dozen more fund-raisers, four in Pennsylvania, one near Detroit, Michigan, three in Florida where brother Jeb is governor, and several more in California.
June 30 is an important date. It's the cut-off for the next campaign finance report candidates will file. The candidate who has raised the most money will look like a winner, making it easier to attract even more money.
CNN's Candy Crowley and Brooks Jackson contributed to this report.