BRASILIA, Brazil – President Bush's detour to Virginia on his way home from Latin America on Monday shows that, despite all his troubles, he can still be considered an asset in a close political race.
Bush will try to push Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore (search) over the edge in the deadlocked campaign's final hours on Monday night. The president and other state Republicans will appear with Kilgore, who served as Bush's Virginia re-election campaign chairman, in a rally at the Richmond airport.
Wrapping up a five-day trip to Latin America, Bush is scheduled to make the stop on his flight home from Panama.
The latest polls shows the Virginia governor's race is a dead heat between Kilgore and Democrat Timothy Kaine (search) leading into Tuesday's voting.
Some political observers have questioned whether Republicans will try to distance themselves from Bush now that public support of his presidency is at an all-time low.
Kilgore skipped Bush's anti-terorrism speech in Norfolk, Va., Oct. 28. Kilgore's failure to show up was widely seen as evidence that Bush was too radioactive for a vulnerable political candidate.
Kilgore's campaign said he had prior commitments. White House aides said they did not invite Kilgore because it was an official presidential event where it would not have been appropriate for Bush to appear with a political candidate.
Bush also held a fund-raiser for Kilgore in July at a supporter's home in the Washington suburb of McClean, Va. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said other leading administration officials also have campaigned for him.
An Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted last week found the president's national approval rating was 37 percent as the war in Iraq drags on, a top White House aide faces felony charges and Bush recently had to replace a failed Supreme Court nominee.
Bush's approval rating is slightly higher in Virgina at 42 percent, according to polling conducted last week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.
It's unclear whether Bush's troubles are holding down GOP votes in the governor's race. The Democrat Kaine was pulling 45 percent, while Republican Kilgore was at 44 percent in the Mason-Dixon poll that had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
The president's visit isn't the only help Kilgore is getting from the Bush political machine. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and several members of the White House political staff helped to bring out the vote over the weekend.
Top Bush political adviser Karl Rove, who is being investigated in the leak of a CIA officer's identity in the case that has resulted in perjury charges against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, also was consulting by phone.