Bush raises big bucks for GOP candidate Swann

President Bush, speaking at a fundraiser Wednesday that an official said raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the struggling campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, devoted about half of his speech to the war in Iraq.

“If we cut and run … this would be a defeat for the United States on a key battleground in the global war on terror,” Bush said.

Bush also praised Swann in his speech before about 350 people at the Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center, citing the candidate’s plans to cut taxes and work to lower medical malpractice insurance rates.

“He’s not running for his ego; he’s running because he wants to serve the people of this state, and he’s got a platform that makes a lot of sense,” Bush said.

Donors paid $10,000 per person or couple for a private reception and photo opportunity with the president, and $650 a person or $1,000 for a couple for a general reception. Swann campaign spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said the event raised about $700,000.

“It’s a significant step in our campaign,” Alcivar said.

The campaign appearance was the president’s first for Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star who announced his candidacy in January and is far behind Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in recent independent polls.

Bush continues to be plagued by low approval ratings in the state. A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found that Bush’s approval rating in Pennsylvania was 33 percent — about the same as in June.

Swann has said that the president’s popularity is not relevant to his gubernatorial bid, and political analysts say Swann needs Bush’s fundraising help to shore up his campaign against Rendell.

As of early June, the governor had raised nearly $20 million — less than half of what he spent in his 2002 campaign and roughly four times the amount that Swann had amassed. Swann has yet to air any television commercials contrasting himself with Rendell, who since April has put out several ads touting his accomplishments.

Rendell led Swann 54 percent to 34 percent among registered voters in a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, a margin that changed little from a June poll that had the former Philadelphia mayor leading Swann 55 percent to 31 percent.

Earlier in the day, Bush toured the Harley-Davidson motorcycle factory in York.

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., who trails his Democratic opponent in the polls, did not attend Bush’s events. He had agreed in June to be the keynote speaker at an agriculture trade show on Wednesday near State College, his staff said.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press