Laura Bush stumps for GOP candidates in Kentucky

SHEPHERDSVILLE — First Lady Laura Bush spent her last scheduled campaign stop before her husband leaves office stumping for Republican Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green for U.S. Congress.

Bush urged a friendly crowd of several hundred at the Paroquet Springs Conference Center in Bullitt County to vote Tuesday for Guthrie and other Republican candidates.

In her 11-minute speech, Bush said Guthrie has created "500 good jobs" as a businessman in Kentucky and will make sure taxes stay low.

Meanwhile, Guthrie's Democratic opponent, David Boswell of Owensboro, said Bush's appearance in the state is an indication of how tight the race for Kentucky's 2nd Congressional District seat has become.

Bush is "a nice lady but I don't think she would have been in Kentucky if Republicans thought he was out in front in this race in the polls," Boswell said in a phone interview.

Still, an automated telephone poll released last week by SurveyUSA showed Guthrie with a comfortable 53-43 percent lead in the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Cecilia. The survey of 587 likely voters showed 31 percent of Democrats crossing party lines to vote for Guthrie. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

On Monday, Boswell predicted the visit by Laura Bush would only remind voters of his opponent's association with the unpopular President Bush.

Her visit "clearly shows my opponent is closely tied to the hip to George Bush and (Vice President) Dick Cheney."

Boswell spent his final day of campaigning in Daviess, Nelson, Meade and Hardin counties.

In an interview, Guthrie said he had no reservations about campaigning with the first lady.

"You can see the crowd," Guthrie said. "She brings a lot of enthusiasm to wherever she goes."

Acknowledging her husband's unpopularity, Bush referred in her speech to the strategy of many Democratic candidates to tie their opponents to the president.

"Tomorrow is finally Election Day," she said. "I'm looking forward to it, partly because it seems like George has been on the ticket."

Besides speaking for Guthrie, Bush urged the crowd to support John McCain for president instead of Democrat Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in his re-election bid against Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford.

She called McCain "a real American" and said his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was "a true reformer."

Bush said she was proud that McCain had picked a woman to run with him.

"Stick with Mitch for six more years," Bush said of McConnell. She praised McConnell's work for human rights issues around the world and spoke highly of McConnell's wife, U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

The first lady spent more time shaking hands with people in the audience than she did speaking. As she left, several in the crowd shouted, "Thank you, Laura."

Jeremiah Tennill, 28, of Shelbyville, got MrsBush's autograph. "She is great and great for Republican candidates," he said.

Other Republicans on stage with Bush at the rally included Mike Duncan of Inez, chairman of the Republican National Committee; state Senate President David Williams of Burkesville and Secretary of State Trey Grayson. State Sen. Gary Tapp of Shelbyville served as emcee of the program.

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