Bush raises big bucks for GOP

President Bush helped raise $17 million for the Republican Party Wednesday, a welcome financial boost amid GOP gloom over the possible loss of majority control of Congress in November.

The president repeatedly voiced optimism and signaled a no-holds-barred effort against Democrats, whom he argued would “run up your taxes,” increase the deficit, enact shortsighted isolationist policies and fail to protect family values and national security.

“We’ve got something to run on. We’ve got something other than rhetoric to run on,” the president told wealthy donors gathered for the Republican National Committee’s annual spring gala. “We’re going to run on principles and a strong record, and I’m confident with your help we’ll continue to maintain our majorities in the United States Senate and the United States House.”

RNC finance chair Dwight Schar made the party’s worry more clear. He said the fundraiser “may well be the difference” between continued GOP dominance of Congress and “a Democrat-led Congress gearing up for impeachment.”

“This will be a close election,” Schar said as he opened the evening’s program.

The event attracted 800 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into DAR Constitution Hall, two blocks from the White House, to hear Bush speak and the country group Diamond Rio perform. They were treated to NASCAR-themed cocktail buffets, with regionally themed stations positioned around the concert hall floor.

Many of the attendees in cocktail attire donated more than the $1,500 ticket price, so that the RNC’s takes rose to a record $17 million for a nonpresidential election year since campaign finance law changes.

The gala raised $15 million last year and $14 million in 2003. In 2004, when Bush was seeking re-election, the dinner brought in a record $38.5 million.

Bush said the election presents voters with a stark choice.

“We’re the party of the future and our candidates will run against the party of the past, a party that offers no new ideas like the Republican Party, a party than can only offer opposition,” he said in a 31-minute speech interrupted frequently by loud applause.

According to the latest filings, released in April, the Republican National Committee maintains its traditional financial supremacy over its Democratic counterpart.

The RNC raised $35 million in the first quarter of the year and has almost $43 million in the bank. The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, raised $18 million in the first quarter and has $10.5 million on hand.

All House seats and one-third of Senate seats are up in the midterm elections. Some political analysts give Democrats a chance of toppling Republicans from the majority in one, or possibly both, chambers.

© 2006 The Associated Press