Political mixed bag comes with Bush visit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 16, 2002

BNI Newswire

BIRMINGHAM – President Bush came to Alabama Monday to give U.S. Rep. Bob Riley his full support in the upcoming gubernatorial election but may have brought some political baggage with him.

The same day Bush may have broken his one-day fundraising record, by filling Riley’s and GOP coffers with more than $4 million, his economic policies were being severely tested.

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During his economic speech calling for tougher sanctions on corporate criminals and the highest ethical standards in corporate America, the stock markets were busy plummeting more than 300 points, continuing their downward trend.

"In spite of the fact we were in a slump for a while, American business workers are resolved and the economy is coming back – it’s a fact," Bush said.

But Dr. Jack Hamilton, a political science professor with the University of Montevallo, said Bush has been hurt by recent economic woes.

"Everyone remembers the phrase from the president’s father’s campaign, ‘It’s the economy stupid,’" Hamilton said, referring to Bill Clinton’s slogan during the 1992 presidential election. "It also doesn’t help that his past investment practices are being looked into."

But Hamilton said Bush remains extremely popular, especially in Alabama.

"He received huge support during the election and should give Riley a boost – outside of the money he helped raise," Hamilton said.

Hamilton did say there might be some backlash for the president and Riley if the issue of an education lottery continues to be a hot topic.

"I am sure there is some concern over the differences in policy between Riley and Bush when it comes to an education lottery," Hamilton said. "Bush pushed very hard for a lottery in Texas where the money was earmarked for schools. Riley on the other hand has continued his opposition to any lottery."

On Monday, staff members with Gov. Don Siegelman’s campaign released a recent video clip of Riley speaking to an organization, saying he wished to emulate the education changes pushed by Bush in Texas. That clip was followed by a clip from a C-Span broadcast showing a younger Gov. Bush asking the Texas legislature to approve the lottery.

Still, Hamilton said the support Bush has given to the sitting congressman and GOP gubernatorial candidate will help in the polls, but even more in the pocketbook.

Associated Press reports, not confirmed by Riley’s campaign, said Monday’s luncheon in Birmingham may have raised more than $4 million – a record for Bush. His previous record was raising $4 million over a two-day period.

"I can’t imagine people paying $50,000 for a photo with the president," Hamilton said. "It’s a little out of my price range."