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The campaigner-in-chief

Even as Republican campaign committees make highly unusual investments in places like, um, Idaho, one top White House official insists to NBC's David Gregory that the gloomy outlook for Republicans is overstated.  This official says that the economy, the war, and a cluster of local issues will decide the election, and that the big issues for Bush down the stretch will be taxes and terror.

Is Bush a liability?  "No."  The official went on, "He can help sharpen the questions that will decide these races; he can motivate the broad party to pay attention; and he can help candidates garner the resources to win."  Asked about voter intensity, the official cited internal surveys and public studies concluding that that intensity levels between Democrats and Republicans are even.  He also insists that his party holds the Senate, keeping their seats in Missouri and Virginia, which analysts see as toss-ups right now.  He also believes that the party still has a shot to keep Montana and seems upbeat about Rhode Island and Tennessee, though he thinks Pennsylvania and Ohio are likely gone, Gregory reports.  As for the House, it's a close call, the official says, but could go either way.  He says of potential losses, "I'm now more a 9-10-11-12-13 guy."

After Vice President Dick Cheney told Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday that his party will keep control of the Senate and has "a good shot" at keeping control of the House, White House spokesman Tony Snow was asked yesterday if there's been any change in the White House's confidence about the election outcome.  Snow replied that "the President is going to make it clear to Republicans that he not only thinks they're going to win, he's going to help them win." 

That said, Snow also told White House reporters last week that by late this week, Bush would be doing lots of public events with candidates.  When asked about that today in light of tonight's closed-press fundraiser, he demurred.  As we noted yesterday, Bush's visit to North Carolina did not include stops in the districts of two vulnerable GOP members.

Bloomberg does the story on Laura Bush being more popular on the campaign trail than her husband.  The story notes, "According to the president's schedule and a list of public speeches, including fund-raisers, posted on the White House Web site, 46 percent of his campaign events during this election cycle have been private affairs off-limits to the press."

  The Financial Times: "The relative absence of the president from the campaign trail bears a striking resemblance to the way Tony Blair, UK prime minister, was all but removed from Labour's European election campaign a year before the 2005 general election.  Though Mr Blair went on to win that election, Labour's vote slumped.  Such is the sense of gloom in Republican ranks that party leaders are openly admitting the possibility of defeat on November 7.  There may be an element of managing expectation, but such doom-mongering is previously unheard of for the Republicans."