President Bush worked Thursday to be an asset to the GOP's candidates despite his sagging popularity, traveling to the Midwest to boost the fortunes of two congressional Republicans running for re-election.
At Bethel College, an evangelical Christian school just east of South Bend, Ind., Bush urged students not to become cynical in a time of ugly partisanship.
"Please take politics seriously," Bush said. "In our society, all of us have a duty to participate."
He said one way to participate is to vote — for Chocola, of course. He then touted their common support for the war on terror and agreement on domestic issues like giving federal dollars to religious groups that provide social services.
The Chocola campaign said the event raised more than $600,000. About 560 people bought tickets for the $500-a-plate lunch, with 75 people buying tickets that allowed them to get their picture taken with Bush at $4,000 per person or $6,000 a couple.
Political observers say Chocola does not appear to be in serious jeopardy of losing, but DeWine has a tough re-election battle against Rep. Sherrod Brown — a 30-year veteran of Democratic politics whose campaign has more than $2.5 million in the bank.
The president is picking up his fundraising schedule with about eight months until the midterm elections. Even though less than half of Americans polled, about 40 percent, say they approve of the way the president is handling his job, Bush can be a valuable monetary draw for Republican candidates.
A memo from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Thursday said it only helps Democrats when Bush campaigns with Republicans. But Chocola stood by his president, saying it's a privilege to serve with someone "who is willing to stand up for their beliefs with action."
The DeWine fundraiser was at a home in the tony suburb of Indian Hill. About 150 people were expected, and reporters were being kept out of that event.
A couple hundred demonstrators protested outside the Chocola fundraiser, holding anti-Bush signs that said things such as "Bush Sold Out" and "Quagmire Accomplished." But there were dozens of supporters cheering the president's arrival, too.
While in Indiana, Bush also was visiting a soldier wounded while serving in Baghdad.