Magazine article Newsweek

Politics: The White House 'Thank You' Tour

Magazine article Newsweek

Politics: The White House 'Thank You' Tour

Article excerpt

Byline: Holly Bailey

At a GOP fund-raiser last March, Michigan Rep. Vernon Ehlers was waiting for his turn to take a photo with President Bush when he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Karl Rove, White House deputy chief of staff and Bush's top political adviser. According to Ehlers, Rove told him Bush was hoping to deliver a graduation speech in Michigan this year and asked if Calvin College, a small Christian school in Grand Rapids, might be a willing venue. Ehlers, a 1956 Calvin graduate whose daughter works at the university, says he was stunned. "For a second there, I was just surprised he knew my face," Ehlers told NEWSWEEK. On Saturday, the president will address Calvin's 900 graduating seniors in the first of just two commencement addresses he will give this season. (He will speak to U.S. Naval Academy graduates on May 27.)

Why Michigan? White House officials insist politics didn't play a role in sending Bush back to a state he narrowly lost in 2004. Yet Saturday will mark Bush's third visit to the Wolverine State this year. Less than six months into his second term, Bush has paid multiple visits to the hard-fought states of 2004--and he's not the only one. Since March, Rove has been out headlining fund-raisers and county GOP dinners in battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin. Administration officials describe Rove's travels as a post-election "thank you" tour to reward Bush's supporters. But others say it's an attempt to shore up the GOP base and stoke enthusiasm for Bush's agenda as the 2006 midterm elections approach. …

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