WASHINGTON – President Bush will spend Wednesday talking up the education bill he signed Tuesday, but he's also returning to another domestic agenda: getting his brother re-elected governor of Florida.
The president will address two $500-a-plate fund-raisers Wednesday night for brother Jeb's re-election bid.
"This is an election year. The president is going to support candidates in this election year who support his agenda," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday.
The fund-raiser is the president's first official political event since Sept. 11. Bush skipped GOP fund-raising events because he didn't want to create a political environment that would look insensitive in the early days of the war against terrorism.
Bush sent Vice President Dick Cheney to speak to guests at a Republican governors' fund-raiser in October.
Bush last raised GOP money in August, attending gatherings for congressional candidates, and has observed an unofficial moratorium on such events since the terrorist attacks. Wednesday's event had been scheduled for Nov. 28, but Jeb Bush said after the attacks he would not raise money until 2002.
Fleischer said that with the new year and the passage of time since the attacks, the president is prepared to lead Republicans in the November election campaigns.
"I think it's clear there is an increased focus throughout the nation on domestic events," Fleischer said. "The president ... embraces it and will lead it."
Bush's re-emergence as Republican fund-raiser in chief comes at the start of an election year in which control of Congress and three dozen statehouses are at stake. Also, partisan battles are escalating in Washington over the economy and other issues.
The president turned away from partisanship, however, on Tuesday, when he attended three education events with Democratic lawmakers who helped craft the massive education reform bill that passed Congress last month.
The $26 billion measure aims to close the learning gap between rich and poor kids by requiring annual tests for the kids and report cards that show how the schools perform. Money has been appropriated to improve poorly peforming schools and to hire tutors for students if the schools continue to do poorly.
Children may even opt to use federal funds for transportation to different public schools in the case their current schools perform under national standards for three years in a row. The idea, the president said, is to make sure federal money isn't spent on programs that don't work.
The president's foray into campaign activities is the second time this week he has spoken to Republican backers. Tuesday, Bush spoke to contributors in New Hampshire and in Florida last month. Those occasions — dubbed donor maintenance events by the White House — weren't technically fund-raisers, Fleischer said, because money wasn't collected there.
Bush has never seemed to relish fund raising the way former President Clinton did. Bush usually puts in quick appearances and leaves without mingling much. Wednesday, he was not expected to stay for dinner, an aide said.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.