President Bush is planning a fundraising stop in the Philadelphia area Monday to raise money for Keystone State Republicans. The reception at a Bryn Mawr home costs $1,000 per person to attend or $10,000 for a photo with the president.
The invitation, a copy of which was obtained by Roll Call, named all nine Republicans in the state’s Congressional delegation as special guests. While having the president in the state usually raises a lot of money, Bush currently is carrying very low approval ratings both nationally and in Pennsylvania.
The state is a battleground for 2008, with a couple of Democratic pickup opportunities in addition to some potentially vulnerable freshman House Members whose seats the Republicans would like to take back, so raising money in the state for 2008 is of the utmost importance for both parties.
But with Bush’s numbers so low, some of the potentially vulnerable Republican Members may be hesitant to be associated with the president and the fundraiser, particularly if they’re serving in districts that lean Democratic.
Rep. Charlie Dent, a two-term Republican from a district that split 50-50 between Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004, is attending the reception, according to his campaign.
“We do appreciate the fact that the chairman of the Republican State Committee, Bob Gleason, is aggressively raising funds for the party,” said Shawn Millan, Dent’s campaign manager.
According to a Republican source familiar with the event, Gleason worked to bring the president to the battleground state Monday, where the money he raises will be much needed for 2008. The event’s hosts, philanthropists Josephine and John Templeton, are longtime supporters of Republican candidates and causes, both nationally and in Pennsylvania.
A Pennsylvania Republican Party spokesman would not confirm the event and referred all inquiries to the White House. Although the White House staff could not confirm the trip before press time Wednesday, it has been reported that Bush also is scheduled to stop in the Cincinnati area on Monday to raise money for Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).
The funds raised from the Pennsylvania event are going to the state GOP’s Victory 2008 Committee and not to any specific candidate, although the money can be used to support a Republican’s campaign indirectly.
A campaign spokesman for targeted Rep. Phil English (R), who represents an Erie-based district on the other side of the state, said the Congressman is not attending the Bush event.
“It’s not on our schedule right now because of long-standing events and prior commitments in the district that he has scheduled Monday,” the spokesman said.
Another perpetual Democratic target, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R), will attend the reception, his office confirmed.
One Republican operative with ties to the state said it was not politically risky for a potentially vulnerable Pennsylvania Members to attend the Bush fundraiser, despite his low approval ratings in the state.
“As far as Dent or Gerlach being a Republican? Well they’re already pregnant with that,” the Republican said. “I think it’s more of a political risk if the party doesn’t raise any money.”
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the committee welcomed the president back to Pennsylvania anytime.
“President Bush can’t campaign enough for endangered Republicans, and it only shows how desperate Pennsylvania Republicans are for cash that they would wrap their arms around an extremely unpopular and divisive president,” DCCC spokeswoman Carrie James said.
The two leading Republican candidates in Pennsylvania’s 10th district, businessmen Dan Meuser and Chris Hackett, were not planning to attend as of Wednesday. Often seen as the best pickup opportunity for Republicans in Pennsylvania, the northeastern Pennsylvania district held by freshman Rep. Christopher Carney (D) voted 60 percent for Bush in 2004.
Hackett’s campaign manager said the candidate had not received an invitation as of late Wednesday.