President Bush on Friday warned against shielding the U.S. economy from global competition in a speech that was sandwiched between fundraisers for Virginia and Kentucky lawmakers facing tough midterm elections.
"The United States of America must not wall ourselves off from the world and must not forget our duty to lead the world," Bush said at Northern Kentucky University where he expanded on a theme of his State of the Union address.
To stay competitive, Bush said, the United States needs to keep taxes low, encourage entrepreneurs, secure the future solvency of Medicare and Social Security, reduce reliance on foreign oil and support free trade.
"I can understand people's concerns about imports coming in from China and imports coming in from India, but I don't think we ought to allow those concerns to close down markets," he said.
Bush has said that he wants to strengthen math and science education and prime research budgets at federal labs. Critics of the plan, which the White House calls the "American Competitiveness Initiative," said that two of every three dollars the president has proposed to help keep the nation competitive would fund business tax breaks.
Bush want to make permanent tax credits that U.S. companies get for investing in research and development projects. In addition to the tax credit, he wants to double over 10 years the investment in agencies that support basic research in the physical sciences and engineering.
Before traveling to Kentucky, Bush attended a $5,000-a-plate fundraiser in Virginia Beach, Va., for Rep. Thelma Drake, who stayed in Washington to vote on a military appropriations bill.
The fundraiser for Drake and one later in the day for Republican Rep. Geoff Davis was evidence that Republican lawmakers in some of the toughest races in the nation want Bush's help despite his sagging job approval ratings.
Illinois Rep. Raum Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he believes the GOP strategy is to get Bush to fundraisers early because Republican candidates might not want to align themselves with him as the election nears.
Bush's trip to Virginia Beach to help Drake followed one to Norfolk in February by Vice President Dick Cheney, who helped raise $200,000. Friday's event, which raised $100,000 for Drake, was held at the home of developer Bob Stanton, in the Bayville Golf Club.
It was closed to the public and media, but two groups of protesters standing at the entrance to the club waved signs and yelled at the president's motorcade. One group had signs that said "We love our president" and the other held ones that said "War isn't working" and "Stop Torture."
Drake is being challenged by Philip J. Kellam, commissioner of revenue in Virginia Beach, a conservative city that Democratic Gov. Timothy R. Kaine narrowly won in last year's gubernatorial race. Drake won the congressional seat in 2004 with 55 percent of the vote in the Republican-leaning district with a heavy military presence; Bush carried the district with 58 percent during his re-election.
Davis is in a tight race against former Rep. Ken Lucas, a conservative Democrat. The event was expected to raise $450,000 for Davis.
The Democratic Party is running $100,000 worth of radio ads on Christian and conservative stations in five media markets, including Cincinnati; Louisville and Lexington, Ky.; and Norfolk.