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Chamber Rolls Out Bus Tour

For the second election season, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched a cross-country bus tour to reach more than 30 states with get-out-the-vote efforts. The group also announced that its political program, which will include television and radio ads, will far exceed the $20 million price tag it racked up in 2006.

This year, the chamber has two buses hitting the road. One will wind its way from Georgia through the South and then on to the West Coast before landing in Denver for the Democratic convention, which starts on Aug. 25.

The second bus, which left Thursday from Washington, D.C., will head south and then head up through New England and eventually end up in Minneapolis/St. Paul for the Republican convention, which begins Sept. 1.

The chamber’s political director, Bill Miller, said the bus and campaign ads are the beginning of the group’s “intense efforts” to engage the business community across the nation to vote for pro-business candidates.

The buses alone will be a costly enterprise. The driver of the bus headed to Minnesota said the rig averages between seven and 11 miles per gallon of diesel fuel. The current price for diesel is about $4.50 per gallon. Between the two buses, the chamber plans to log about 8,000 miles for the trip.

“We are struggling with trying to figure out how to work within a budget … like everyone,” Miller said of fuel prices.

The chamber will focus on such issues as energy prices, the trade agenda and “threats” from organized labor unions, Miller added.

“Our belief is, our message is important and strong,” he said.

The group plans to use the bus tour to make Congressional endorsements along the route. Miller said the Senate remains a top priority, especially “helping our friends” in tight races such as Sens. John Sununu (R-N.H.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

But, Miller said, “the chamber is not an arm of the Republican Party” and it is endorsing some Democrats, including Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), considered the most vulnerable Senate Democrat, Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Max Baucus (Mont.), as well as Senate candidate Mark Warner (D-Va.).

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