WASHINGTON – He may have driven her from the 2000 presidential race by raising insurmountable funds, but today President Bush is helping Elizabeth Dole collect cash for her 2002 U.S. Senate campaign.
During a meeting in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday with community leaders about his plan to require more work from welfare recipients, Bush took time-out to headline a fund-raiser luncheon expected to pull in $1 million for Dole, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Jesse Helms, Republican Rep. Robin Hayes and the North Carolina Republican Party.
"I can't wait to work with Elizabeth Dole. It's important this state send her to Washington, D.C. It's important that you have somebody in Washington that when she calls over to the White House they answer the phone," Bush said.
"I think it'd be a lot easier for me to accomplish what I want to accomplish with Denny Hastert as speaker of the House of Representatives and Trent Lott as majority leader of the United States Senate," he added.
Though Dole's name recognition pushed other Republican candidates out of the race, she will have to beat one of a slew of well-known North Carolina Democrats also vying for the seat. Among them are former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, former state House Speaker Dan Blue, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and former Durham City Council member Cynthia Brown.
Keeping the seat in Republican hands is vital to winning back control of the Senate, lost to Democrats last June when Sen. Jim Jeffords defected from the GOP to become an Independent who would vote with Democrats.
Since then, Bush initiatives have been trapped in limbo by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who has prevented several Bush-backed bills from reaching the floor.
Dole has never held elected office, but was Transportation Secretary under President Ronald Reagan and Labor Secretary under the first President Bush. She also headed the American Red Cross and is married to Bob Dole, the former Senate Majority Leader who served in the Senate for 27 years before quitting to run for president in 1996.
Dole had her own troubles during the 2000 presidential primary race, quitting in October 1999 while complaining that "the message is money and that's too bad, because that really diminished the process."
She waited three months to endorse Bush, whom her campaign manager during the race accused of borrowing ideas from Dole's tenure at the Red Cross.
"The governor will make a great future president — of the American Red Cross. Many of these ideas, especially on taxes, are things that Elizabeth Dole instituted at the Red Cross," said her then-campaign manager Ari Fleischer, who is now Bush's press secretary.
Dole, who was born in Salisbury, N.C., is trying to combat accusations of carpetbagging since she only recently returned to North Carolina to run for the Senate after spending most of her adult life in Washington. She was registered to vote in Kansas, the state her husband represented in the Senate, until October of last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.