GREENWICH, Conn. – President Bush met privately Monday with Republican donors at an estate on Long Island Sound, raising almost $800,000 for GOP House members facing tough re-election fights.
About 65 people attended the event at the waterfront mansion on a breezy, sunny day. The money was raised to help Republican candidates, but mostly to help GOP Reps. Christopher Shays, Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons. Those three are top targets for Democrats trying to gain the 15 seats needed to take control of the House.
The White House is not helping Republican Alan Schlesinger in his bid for the Senate. The top candidates in that race are three-term Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is running as an independent after losing the Democratic nomination to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont. Schlesinger trails far behind in a race seen as a referendum on Bush's Iraq war policies.
"We're staying out of it," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
Snow rejected any suggestion that Bush was meeting privately with Republicans because of his low popularity in some regions of the country, including the Northeast.
"We're having them closed because they are in private homes," Snow said. "People understand what the president stands for. He's saying things you've heard before."
The Greenwich stop came on a day when Bush also planned to focus on the economy.
Later in the day, Bush planned to raised money for GOP Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who is locked in a close re-election fight with Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown. Bush's visit in Ohio would raise almost $1 million, Republicans said.
While in Ohio, Bush was visiting a manufacturing plant where he planned to talk about the economy and the need to keep conditions that will help businesses grow. His economic pitch comes at a time the economy has slowed a bit — largely because of a cooler housing market — after getting off to a fast start early this year.
About four in 10 approve of the way the president is handling the economy, according to Associated Press-Ipsos polling. Some polling suggests people are a bit less gloomy about the economy now than they were a few months ago.
Gas prices have dropped sharply in the last months, which could help ease public anxiety about the economy. The price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline has dropped about a half-dollar in recent weeks to about $2.40, according to AAA estimates.
The president says a combination of job growth and a strong performance by manufacturers — aided by tax cuts — could help Republicans win this November. Democrats argue that Bush policies have hurt the middle class and say many of the jobs being created are for low wages.