ELKO, Nev. — Searching for new arguments to mobilize conservative voters, President Bush said Thursday that Chief Justice John Roberts would not be on the Supreme Court if Democrats controlled the Senate.
Bush told voters at rallies in the red states of Montana and Nevada that if Democrats take control of the Senate, they could affect what kind of judges sit on federal courts.
Roberts' earlier nominations to a lower federal appeals court were blocked by the Senate when it was under Democratic control, Bush said. The Senate approved Bush's nomination of Roberts to head the Supreme Court last year with 22 Democrats voting for him and 22 Democrats voting against him.
"I want you to hear this loud and clear: If the Democrats controlled the Senate, John Roberts would not be the Chief Justice today," Bush said at a rally in Billings, Mont., where incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns is locked in a tough race with challenger John Tester.
Bush then flew to Nevada to boost congressional candidate Dean Heller, using the John Roberts argument again to whip up conservative voters. A recent poll showed the incumbent Republican senator, John Ensign, with a wide lead over his Democratic opponent, Jack Carter, son of former President Jimmy Carter.
"If you want good, sound, conservative judges who will not legislate from the bench, you send Republicans back to the United States Senate," Bush said.
Bush was on the first day of a final six-day campaign swing before Election Day. His schedule has him appearing only in states he won in the 2004 presidential race and away from swing states where he is a more polarizing figure who might hurt GOP candidates.
The 2nd District of Nevada where Bush stopped hasn't been won by a Democrat since its creation 25 years ago, and Bush's visit there was a sign of how much trouble Republicans face. Bush became the first sitting president to visit Elko since Herbert Hoover campaigned there in 1932 on the eve of his loss to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Bush appeared upbeat despite predictions that Democrats are poised to take control of at least one chamber of Congress in Tuesday's election. He said those forecasts are premature and smiled broadly as he appeared before cheering crowds, shaking all the hands he could reach and telling jokes. "It is nice to be in a part of the country where the cowboy hats outnumbered the ties," he said to loud cheers.
But he made one gaffe in Montana that may be a sign of the toll of frequent campaign trips. He spoke of the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Lancaster, Pa. Lancaster is 165 miles east of where United Flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, killing everyone on board.
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