The wife of a lawmaker who admitted an affair was praised by Bush.
LA PLUME, Pa. (AP) -- In an unusual day of campaigning, President Bush swooped into two races once safe for Republicans but turned perilous by one candidate's affair with a much-younger woman and by accusations of racial insensitivity against the other.
Bush's appearances Thursday, for Rep. Don Sherwood in Pennsylvania and for Sen. George Allen in Richmond, Va., found the White House on the defensive over the decision to help candidates in such plights.
"I think the president understands that it's important to set high standards," said spokesman Tony Snow when asked about the situation.
Bush tried to keep the focus on his contentions that Democrats would go soft on the war on terror and would raise taxes if handed control of Congress in the November elections.
The pictures of the day from Pennsylvania were of Bush descending the steps of Air Force One followed by Sherwood, his wife, Carol, and one of their daughters, and the foursome's appearance later at a local farmer's ice cream store.
Formerly safe seat
Sherwood has held one of the safest seats in Congress, his conservatism playing well in his heavily Republican, rural district in northeastern Pennsylvania. Democrats didn't even bother fielding a candidate in the past two elections. But last year, Sherwood admitted to a five-year extramarital affair with a woman 35 years his junior. He settled a lawsuit that claimed he had choked her -- he has denied he abused her -- and has aired a campaign commercial asking constituents to forgive his infidelity -- and re-elect him.
Helping to raise more than 300,000 for Sherwood at Keystone College, Bush only obliquely addressed the controversy.
He praised Sherwood as "the right man to represent" his district, because of policy positions ranging from taxes to Iraq to highway money. Bush then offered effusive admiration for Sherwood's wife, Carol, who sat beaming beside her husband on the dais behind the president after mostly staying out of view during the campaign.
Bush called her a "caring and courageous woman" because of a letter she wrote to constituents over the weekend. In that letter, she denounced Sherwood's opponent, Democrat Chris Carney, for airing campaign ads about the affair and the abuse that Sherwood has denied.
"I was deeply moved by her words," Bush said.
The president's main message at the event was that the Iraq war is part of the broader anti-terrorism effort.
He warned ominously that Democratic control of Congress would result in a chairman of the House tax-writing committee who would cut off funding for troops in Iraq and a speaker, referring to now-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who voted against a string of bills: renewing the Patriot Act, creating a Department of Homeland Security, waging the Iraq war and authorizing a warrantless wiretapping program.
"Given the record of Democrats on our nation's security, I understand why they want to change the subject," Bush said.
Responded Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider: "Clearly, the president is getting desperate to keep his rubber-stamp Republican Congress if all he can do is try to scare the American people with false claims."
Later, at the fundraiser for Allen, Bush was switching to the other pillar of his campaign-trail speeches: that a Democratic-controlled Congress would preside over an economically damaging increase in taxes on American families and businesses.
Sherwood and Allen are two of the GOP's more-endangered candidates as the parties head into midterm elections less than three weeks away that could strip Republicans of their majority in one or both houses of Congress.
Allen, once considered a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, is in a tightening Senate re-election race with Democrat Jim Webb. Allen has spent weeks rebutting charges of racism and religious insensitivity.
Webb is gaining ground on the incumbent's financial advantage and drawing help from national Democrats, and a recent poll showed the race virtually tied.
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