(PADUCAH, Ky., Saturday, November 1, 2003) -- President Bush told an enthusiastic crowd Saturday that Ernie Fletcher will have a friend in the White House if he is elected governor Tuesday. "When he becomes the governor, and he calls up to Washington, the president will answer the phone" Bush said.
Speaking to thousands in an airport hanger, Bush called Fletcher "a man of integrity" who would bring honor to the governorship.
Fletcher has made cleaning up "the mess in Frankfort" a theme of his campaign following an extramarital affair by Democratic Gov. Paul Patton and other scandals that have tainted Patton's administration.
"He understands that when you assume that oath of office, you have an obligation to bring honor to the office that you assume," Bush said of Fletcher during an 18-minute speech at the first of two campaign stops to promote the GOP ticket in Tuesday's election.
A recent poll by The Associated Press showed Bush was viewed favorably by 64 percent of likely Kentucky voters.
As Bush was introduced to the crowd, supporters started chanting "four more years" a reference to Bush's re-election campaign next year. Bush responded, "It's actually three more days until Ernie Fletcher becomes the governor of Kentucky."
Fletcher said that Bush had restored honor and dignity to Washington.
"Now we must restore honor and dignity to Frankfort," Fletcher said.
Before Bush arrived in western Kentucky, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning told the partisan crowd the region is key in Tuesday's election.
"This campaign is going to be won or lost right here where you're standing," Bunning told enthusiastic Bush and Fletcher supporters waiting in a warm hangar at Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah.
Republicans have made some gains in recent years in western Kentucky, long a Democratic stronghold.
The GOP distributed 5,000 tickets in six western Kentucky counties for Bush's Saturday visit. Supporters hoisted small children onto their shoulders and waved American flags and red-white-and-blue pompons as Bunning, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and other Republican speakers rallied the crowd before Bush arrived.
The president's visit Saturday marked the second time in a month that Bush has come to Kentucky to help the Lexington congressman in his campaign against Democratic nominee Ben Chandler.
Chandler, the state's attorney general, was scheduled to spend most of Saturday campaigning in Louisville after starting the day in eastern Kentucky.
After the Paducah rally, Bush was scheduled to campaign with Fletcher in London _ an area of southeastern Kentucky that traditionally has been Republican territory.
Earlier Saturday, Bush was in Mississippi to lend support to former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, who is trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.