She may be one of the most popular first ladies in many years and lately she’s been spending more and more time out on the campaign trail. On Wednesday, November 1, I was given rare behind-the-scenes access to first lady Laura Bush as she made a campaign swing through Kentucky and Ohio.
It was a crisp autumn day as we boarded the Mrs. Bush’s plane at Andrews Air Force Base. On this day she was flying a military C-9 that is unofficially dubbed “Bright Star” when she is aboard. By the time we arrived in Kentucky it was raining, but that did not dampen the spirits of the party faithful when she walked into a leaky tent to give a speech on behalf of Congressman Ron Lewis.
Though I had long been under the impression that she was something of a reluctant campaigner, the first lady insisted that she truly enjoys being on the stump for GOP candidates. Though our stops on this day would be campaign rallies, Mrs. Bush has been an effective fund-raiser as well. The White House says she has raised between 15 and 16 million dollars this election cycle.
While in Kentucky, I had the opportunity to sit down for a one-on-one interview and I asked her why some in the White House were optimistic about the midterm elections at a time when many are predicting gloom and doom for the Republican party.
BRIAN: When you read the newspapers, there's a consistent theme about what's going on behind the scenes of the White House. It's that, while the rest of the world may say, oh, the Democrats are going to have a great year, that Karl Rove, the President and his advisors believe that that's just wrong. What do they base that on, when you hear these conversations?
MRS. BUSH: Well, every race is local, as you know, and a lot of the polls that we see are big national polls. But the fact is, people vote for their own congressmen in their own district or their own senator in their own state. We'll see. I think it's going to be very, very close, there's no doubt about it, but so were the last two elections, as you remember — certainly the two presidential elections that we were involved in. And I think we're just at a time in our history where every race is pretty close. And so we'll have to wait until election night and see.
BRIAN: The election cycle we're in right now has been tremendously negative. Most people who have covered politics previous cannot recall a time when it has been that negative. What do you attribute that to?
MRS. BUSH: Well, I think it's a lot of things. I think it's because our country is pretty divided evenly and elections are close everywhere. I think the other side would like to win one, and our side, of course, doesn't want them to win one. So I think that's part of it. But the fact is, campaigns usually — every time, we think they're the most negative ones we've ever been involved in. I visited the Lincoln new museum and library in Springfield, Illinois, and the political cartoons and the pamphleteering that took place when he was in his race for the President were horrible, too. And so I think it's just a fact of life in politics.
The second stop on the campaign trail was Hilliard, Ohio, where GOP RepresentativeDeborah Pryce is in a tight race for re-election. On our way to the campaign event, we made what is known as an OTR (off-the-record) stop at a store that sold Ohio State Football gear. Pryce bought a cap to send to the president and Mrs. Bush ended up with a buckeye necklace, which she proudly wore later at the rally.
I must say the pace of campaigning is quick – running and dashing from event to event. The first lady spent a great deal of time meeting and greeting the supporters who turned out, but a member of her staff is always nearby making sure that things stayed on schedule. In fact, at the end of a pretty grueling day complete with two rallies, three airplane hops and six motorcades, we returned back to the White House only five minutes behind schedule.
You’ll get a real behind-the-scenes glimpse of her day this Sunday on “Weekend Live.” Our day-in-the-life story will run shortly after 1:00 p.m. Eastern (10:00 a.m. Pacific) on “Weekend Live.” In the meantime, take a look at some of the back stage pictures I snapped with my handy dandy digital camera.
Hope to see you Saturday and Sunday for pre-election editions of “Weekend Live.”
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"Weekend Live" hosted by Brian Wilson airs 12 – 2 p.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.