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Bush on campaign blitz in key states

From Suzanne Malveaux

"Round up the vote and work hard," Bush told the crowd Thursday in Charleston, West Virginia.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ahead of Tuesday's pivotal mid-term elections, President Bush has begun a final campaign blitz that will take him to 15 states in five days, a grueling and unforgiving schedule meant to accomplish one thing: helping Republicans try to seize control of both the House and the Senate.

On Friday, President Bush is to appear at rallies in New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

At his final stop in West Virginia on Thursday, Bush delivered a strong partisan message at a rally for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is in a tight re-election battle with Democrat Jim Humphreys. She narrowly defeated Humphreys two years ago, winning by about 5,000 votes.

"Tell your fellow citizens they have an obligation to go to the polls. Don't worry about talking to some of these Democrats," Bush said at the rally. "Round up the vote. Round up the vote and work hard."

The last leg of the blitz gets under way Friday and won't end until Bush returns to his home state of Texas, where he is to vote on Tuesday. Along the way, the president will hit states with critical races for the GOP -- Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Arkansas, and South Dakota again.

In South Dakota's Senate race, the stakes couldn't be higher. It's a virtual tie between Republican Rep. John Thune, personally recruited by Bush, and the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Tim Johnson. Here, Republicans believe they could pick up that one coveted seat needed to win control of the Senate.

But the White House knows that at this stage of the game, it's not about war talk, tax cuts, or even big fund-raising dollars -- now, it's all about voter turnout.

Early Thursday, Bush attended a get-out-the-vote rally for Thune in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and said: "If you believe in the character and the vision of these candidates, turn out your neighbors to the polls come next Tuesday."

A victory in South Dakota, in Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's home state, would be especially sweet for Bush. The White House blames Daschle and the Democratically controlled Senate for blocking much of Bush's legislative agenda -- most notably, homeland security, terrorism insurance and permanent tax cuts.

For this reason, the Bush administration is defending the president's record-breaking fund-raising, nearly $140 million for Republican candidates, and dozens of campaign trips across 40 states.

But history shows it will be an uphill battle for the Bush administration, because the party in control of the White House usually loses congressional seats in the mid-term elections. But the president is determined to campaign right up to Election Day in an effort to buck the trend.

At most of his campaign stops, Bush implores the crowd to "put the right people" in the Senate -- those he can work with, not those who follow "bureaucratic rules written by special interests in Washington."

At his stop in South Dakota, Bush referred to Thune as a man with "common-sense vision."

"I look forward to working with him in the United States Senate," Bush said. "He doesn't get caught up in all the nasty rhetoric that tends to divide our nation's capital, that rhetoric which sends bad signals to many of our citizenry."

On Friday, Bush plans to travel to Middletown, Pennsylvania; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Louisville, Kentucky. On Saturday he heads to Blountville, Tennessee, followed by stops in Savannah and Marietta, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida.

On Sunday, Bush will stop in Springfield, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and spend the night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

On Monday, he will have an event in Cedar Rapids before traveling to St. Charles, Missouri; Bentonville, Arkansas; Dallas, Texas; and then spending the night at his Crawford ranch.

The president plans to vote Tuesday in Texas before returning to the White House.

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