Stump gets a dusting of Snow: Press secretary hits the road for GOP
JEFFERSONVILLE,Ind.—The White House has thrown its power players into this southeast corner of Indiana, deemed by senior political strategist Karl Rove as ground zero in the 2006 congressional elections.
In just the last couple of weeks, President Bush held his first political rally of the season just up the road in Sellersburg, and Vice President Dick Cheney, first lady Laura Bush, former first lady Barbara BushandRepublicanNationalCommittee Chairman Ken Mehlman have all dropped by. But last week, theWhiteHousecalledinitsbiggun — Tony Snow.
In a tiny hall at 300 Spring St. — on a quintessential small-town thoroughfare where the town’s children paraded on Oct. 31 in their Halloween costumes — the White House press secretary serenaded a room full of plump men and bluehaired women, offering his unique brand of rosy optimism, eagerly lapped up by the local Republican activists.
“Thisisanelectionaboutbigchallenges and high ideals, and all I wanttosayis,thankyousomuchfor being part of it, and I hope that I’ve given you a little more hope to realize that,” Mr. Snow said as he paced the stage like a TV talk-show host. “But I need your help: Can I count on it?” The roomful of people burst into applause and shouts of “Yes.”
The former Fox News Channel personality and conservative commentator is adored in “red” America, where he brings swoons. With his telegenic good looks and seamless charm, Mr. Snow is even more popularthanhisboss,whohasbeen shunned by some Republicans and hasattendedfewerfundraisersthan his more popular wife in recent weeks.
ItwasapointthatDemocraticNationalCommitteespokesmanStacie Paxton quickly made.
“President Bush obviously remains a liability for Republicans. Maybe someone should remind Tony Snow that the first rule of PR is to not get better press than your boss,” she said.
Even though Mr. Snow arrived heremorethananhourlate,allwho had packed into the room — includingthosewhohaddrivenanhouror more for the luncheon — stayed, despite local Republican Rep. Mike Sodrel’s filling the gap by talking nonstop.
“Oooh, we just love him,” cooed Lowetta Jenkins, of nearby Clarksville, Ind., stretching out the word “love.” “He was very positive, upbeat. He presents the president’s message so well.”
ThedayMr.SnowstoppedinJeffersonville, he first hit a fundraiser upstateforIndianaRepublicanRep. Chris Chocola, also locked in a tight race.HethenflewontoSt.Louisfor a chat with activists working to reelect Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, tied withhisopponentinthemostrecent polls. In all, he will do about 15 events on this trip, including his last, on Nov. 1 for Maryland Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, the state’s lieutenant governor.
When Mr. Snow announced last month that he would hit the campaign trail for the president and his party — the first press secretary to raisefundsforhisboss—heassured White House reporters he would serve up no “red meat.” He was, for the most part, true to his word on Oct. 30, although he did get a jab or two in at Democrats, college professors and even the French.
“This election is about the differ- ence between a president who says, ‘I am going to do everything I can to do my job right, including thinking about the future,’ and a Democratic Partythathasmadeacalculatedpolitical gamble to say nothing about themattersthatcount,”hesaid.“Ask yourselfthefollowingquestion:Why would you hire somebody if they’re not going to tell you what they’re going to do?”
Segueing into Iran, with a declaration that “Iran loves America,” he said:“Letmejustputitthisway:The Iranian public is more pro-American that just about any college faculty in the United States.” Big applause from the conservative core.
On democracy, he throws in a barb sure to draw a cheer from the partisan throng of about 250. “Democracies are just not a pain in the neck — except, upon occasion, the French.” A big laugh, then whoops of applause.
Throughouthishourlongtalkand question-and-answer session — the luncheon cost $25 to attend, but another$100forapicturewiththestar — Mr. Snow kept it personal, mentioning his battle with colon cancer, his three small children and his ineptness with his IPod. “My daughter programs mine,” he said.
Eventhoughheansweredaquestion about his future by saying he simply doesn’t know what he’ll do next, he dismissed a small sign that read “Tony Snow — 2008.”
“Ididn’tthinktheyservedalcohol that early,” he said.
White House press secretary Tony Snow energized Republicans at an event for an endangered congressman in Jeffersonville, Ind. on Oct. 30. Mr. Snow has hit the campaign trail for President Bush.