YORK, Pa. – President Bush hopped on a Harley-Davidson at a motorcycle factory Wednesday as he made an election-year pitch for Republican stewardship of the economy.
The president also was in Pennsylvania to raise cash for a GOP hopeful in the state's gubernatorial campaign.
Cheers and applause erupted inside the Harley-Davidson Inc. vehicle operations plant here when Bush straddled a high-end model painted blue and white and revved its engine again and again. Climbing down, he ripped off blue-tinted safety glasses that he insisted made him look like rock star Bono and jokingly struck a pose intended to show a hip side.
"I'm just looking so far," Bush said during a tour of the plant where 3,200 employees work around the clock on shiny motorcycles that move slowly around the assembly floor on tracks. "I'll let Josh Bolten ride these things," Bush said of his chief of staff, known as a motorcycle enthusiast.
After the tour, Bush held a round-table discussion with Harley-Davidson workers about the U.S. economy, which has showed recent signs of slowing. The president said he discussed with the workers the need for government to open up markets for U.S. products around the world.
"The more Harleys sold in a place like Vietnam or China or India, the more likely that somebody is going to be able to find work," Bush said.
An AP-Ipsos poll in early August showed about 37 percent supported Bush's handling of the economy. That matches his lowest level in May 2006 and November 2005, but not that different from the last few months.
The Labor Department on Wednesday reported that consumer inflation accelerated in July, reflecting a big jump in gasoline and other energy prices. In evidence that the economy is slowing, industrial output in July slipped to just half the June pace.
Later, Bush flew by helicopter to Lancaster to raise an estimated $650,000 in much-needed cash for former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, who is carrying GOP hopes for an upset over incumbent Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Swann trails Rendell in fundraising and the polls.
When Bush landed in Lancaster, he was greeted by about four dozen Amish men in straw hats and women wearing traditional white head coverings who were holding babies. After being windblown by the president's helicopter, they rushed toward him to shake his hand and pose for pictures.
At the fundraiser, Bush said Swann was running for governor for the right reasons.
"He's had plenty of accolades. Just ask the Dallas Cowboys," Bush said of the football star. "He's not running for his ego. He's running because he wants to serve the people of this state and he's got a platform that makes a lot of sense."
As of early June, Rendell had raised nearly $20 million — less than half of what he spent in his 2002 campaign and roughly four times the amount Swann has amassed.
"Swann needs President Bush to help win back those Republicans who are backing Rendell," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of Quinnipiac University's polling institute. "Also, the president can help raise the kind of money Swann needs to take on a well-financed Democratic incumbent."