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Bush: Barbour will raise the bar'

By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
Sept. 13, 2003
JACKSON President Bush told Republicans on Friday that longtime friend and GOP gubernatorial nominee Haley Barbour offers the best hope for the future of Mississippi and its residents.
Bush, the first sitting president in modern times to stump in Mississippi for a gubernatorial candidate, urged Democrats and Republicans alike to back Barbour.
Bush said he especially likes Barbour's campaign slogan: "Mississippi can do better."
Bush headlined a $1,000-a-ticket campaign fund-raiser for Barbour, who is locked in a heated race for governor against incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove. Three third-party candidates also are running for the job.
The president, the main attraction of a 21⁄2 hour luncheon at the Mississippi Coliseum, spoke for about 30 minutes. Bush appeared on stage shortly before his speech at about 1:30 p.m.; he left immediately after.
Large crowd
More than 1,100 people including such prominent Republicans as Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, former Gov. Kirk Fordice and Jefferson County Supervisor Charles Evers dined on a lunch catered by Bravo!, a popular Jackson restaurant.
Many sported Barbour campaign stickers as they sat at tables on the same coliseum floor that hosts the state's annual public high school basketball tournament and the annual Dixie National Rodeo.
Those who didn't eat sat in the stands above the floor.
Besides paying $1,000 a ticket to attend, a small number of people also paid $10,000 to have their photos taken backstage with Bush. The entire event was expected to raise about $1.2 million for the Barbour campaign.
Many Republicans said the event was worth the effort. Attorney Rick Barry, one of several Meridian residents who attended, said Bush's popularity in Mississippi also helps.
Dick Hall, a Republican running this year for re-election as Central District transportation commissioner, described the fund-raiser as a pep rally to energize voters and boost the Barbour campaign.
Texas repeat
Barbour, who made his entrance at the fund-raiser at the same time as the president, told supporters in brief remarks that he wants to do what Bush did when he won the Texas governor's election in 1994.
Like Barbour, the president talked in broad generalities and didn't discuss any specifics. Bush, instead, focused on why he believes Barbour would be successful as Mississippi governor.
Bush talked about Barbour's commitment to pushing civil justice reform, improving the state economy and making public education the top priority. Bush said Barbour believes in "raising the bar" for education.