WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) plans to lie low during next week's Democratic National Convention (search), but his re-election campaign will send a "thorn-in-their-side" contingent to react to Bush-bashing, and Vice President Dick Cheney will keep up the attacks on John Kerry (search) during a West Coast swing.
The last two presidents seeking re-election quietly decamped to Jackson, Wyo., during the opposing party's nominating convention, and Bush will likewise keep a low profile when the Democrats gather in Boston. Bush plans to spend July 23-29 at his Crawford, Texas, ranch catching his breath before the campaign's home stretch, aides say.
He and his wife, Laura, will be out of the limelight during the Democratic National Convention, July 26-29, taking a rare break from their heavy re-election travel in recent weeks.
Bush's campaign, however, will send about a dozen people to Boston to rapidly respond to Democratic critics — a "thorn-in-their-side" delegation, as one Bush adviser put it.
"We'll have a strong presence in Boston to respond to all of the charges and the negativity and pessimism that comes out of John Kerry's and John Edwards' campaign," campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Just outside the Democrats' convention, the Republican National Committee (search) will set up shop to do the same, though party and campaign officials were vague Monday about whether they will combine their efforts.
"We plan to aggressively point out the fact that the Democrats are giving John Kerry's voting record an extreme makeover," said RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson.
As of Monday, senior Bush campaign aides said they had no plans to run ads during the Democratic convention. The current ad buy ends Thursday. Should Bush remain off the air, the airwaves will be filled largely with Kerry's message: he is slated to continue running ads next week, and he'll receive a flood of news coverage from the convention.
Bush plans to charge back out to the campaign trail on July 30, the day after the Democratic convention ends, heading straight to four battleground states in two days.
Cheney's two immediate predecessors, Dan Quayle and Al Gore, both took vacation during the opposition's convention.
The vice president will break with that tradition. He owns a home in Jackson, Wyo., but will not spend the week there. Cheney plans a West Coast campaign swing during the convention, aides say. He will continue headlining re-election rallies and delivering policy speeches contrasting Bush's records with Kerry's, they said, declining to provide details. Cheney also will appear at fund-raisers for Republican congressional candidates.
By coincidence, both the first President Bush and President Clinton vacationed in Jackson during their opponents' conventions. Both professed that they hadn't watched the gatherings.
In 1992, the elder Bush fished for trout on Secretary of State James A. Baker III's remote ranch, cut off even from a television that could have brought the criticism from the Democratic National Convention into the cabin's living room. The president used the occasion to reel Baker back in to run his struggling re-election campaign.
After a similar fishing trip to Wyoming during the 1988 Democratic convention, then-Treasury Secretary Baker gave President Reagan his resignation to run Bush's presidential campaign.
In 1996, Clinton played golf, watched elk and went horseback riding and hiking in Jackson. He also finished writing a book.