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President touches state's political hot buttons

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
Sept. 14, 2003
My observation after shaking hands and chatting briefly with President Bush on Friday is that the man really likes his job.
It tends to confirm the assessment of Mississippi voters who on Nov. 7, 2000, gave him 57.6 percent of their votes. Closer to home, Lauderdale County voters gave Bush more than 68 percent of their votes in his race against Democrat Al Gore.
On Friday, Bush touched down aboard Air Force One in Jackson to talk up the candidacy of Republican gubernatorial nominee Haley Barbour, who is in a tight battle with Democrat incumbent Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
The only thing better for a candidate than receiving generous praise from his nation's highest leader is raising some money in the process. Barbour's campaign expects the visit of the president will raise about $1.2 million.
In terms of presidential support, give the edge to Barbour. Don't look for any Democrat on the national scene coming to campaign for Musgrove. Nor does Musgrove seem to want them.
Musgrove says he wants to run his own campaign free of outside influence. Of course, that approach hasn't kept the Barbour campaign from contending that "Musgrove's top contributor is the pro-gun control, pro-abortion national Democrat party," or that "Musgrove's number one all time individual contributor is a trial lawyer who has been indicted for corruption in the judicial process."
Broad appeal
Bush pushed many of the political hot buttons that are helping define the Nov. 4 election in Mississippi jobs, education, tax relief, a faith-based initiative, civil justice reform and fiscal discipline in state government.
The president said, to laughter and applause, that he and Barbour "share something else in common we both married above ourselves.
The president had some nice comments for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and Mississippi's Republican congressmen, Roger Wicker and Chip Pickering.
He made special note of Pickering's father, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pickering, whose nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been stopped cold by Democrats in the Senate.
Playing politics
For Meridian native and retired U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery, who also attended the luncheon, Bush had special praise.
The president turned to serious politics then, encouraging the gathered Republicans, "You've got to go to your coffee shops and tell the people that may not be quite as interested in politics as you are that there's a lot at stake for Mississippi.
The president's message was positive and powerful. He never mentioned Musgrove by name. And why would he Musgrove endorsed Gore in 2000.