— From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby.
Twelve days to go... President Bush's day starts off with a ceremonial, politically loaded bill-signing. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 authorizes a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border. Earlier this month, distracted House Republicans missed their chance to tout Bush's signing of the bill that provides a down payment on the fence because it happened in the immediate aftermath of the Mark Foley scandal. Clearly, they're determined not to miss a second chance to promote their work on an issue which has great appeal to the party base.
They're also not missing a chance to motivate their base by firing at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Dennis Hastert said yesterday in a written statement about his potential successor, "Pelosi has NEVER visited the border. She claims to understand the needs of those on the front lines but has never visited those agents and offers no solutions." As Republicans across the board attempt to demonize Pelosi, bear in mind that the mid-October NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Pelosi was recognized by 57% of those surveyed and of those, 18% had a neutral opinion, 14% viewed her positively, and 25% viewed her negatively. (Mark Foley, on the other hand, was recognized by 83%; 69% viewed him negatively.)
A Pelosi aide tells First Read that she actually has visited the border with Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D). Reyes is a former Border Patrol official who may be in line to chair the House Intelligence Committee. A Pelosi statement yesterday noted that her visit enabled her to "see firsthand the Republicans' record of failure on border security."
Pollsters for both parties tell us that there's little sign that immigration overall is playing in GOP general election campaigns against Democrats. Bush's willingness to sign the bill in a public ceremony also represents a concession from a President who has spent much of the year calling for comprehensive rather than piecemeal immigration reform.
After that appeal to the base, Bush hits the trail. His first stop is Des Moines, where he'll raise money for GOP House candidate Jeff Lamberti at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Per the Cook Political Report, this race isn't a toss-up -- it leans toward the Democratic incumbent. A local paper reported yesterday that the GOP gubernatorial nominee in Iowa, Rep. Jim Nussle, will not be present for Bush's visit even though he also will be in Des Moines.
Bush then heads onto Warren, MI for a fundraiser for Senate candidate Mike Bouchard. A new poll for Bouchard's Democratic opponent, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, shows her beating him by 53%-35%. Listen closely to hear if Bush alters his usual remarks about the strong US economy in this state which has a jobless rate of 7.1%. Whether by coincidence or by design, the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday that the White House has set a date for Bush's meeting with the Big Three for sometime in mid-November; Karl Rove disclosed on local talk-radio that the meeting has been set up, but refused to give the specific date.
The White House has announced three victory rallies to be headlined by Bush on Monday and Tuesday -- in Georgia and Texas. In what looks like a curious bit of scheduling, Bush has two rallies in Georgia in two days. And tomorrow, Laura Bush is scheduled to head to Florida to raise money for the same House candidate Bush raised money for two days ago, Vern Buchanan, who's struggling to keep Katherine Harris' seat in the GOP fold.