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Bush visits state in a dramatically different climate

SACRAMENTO (AP) – President Bush will arrive in Northern California Wednesday to a warmer political climate than he encountered during his first visit to the state five months earlier.

In May, Bush faced a state whose voters shunned him last November and whose Democratic governor, Gray Davis, was blasting Bush’s response to the California energy crisis.

Now, Bush is meeting support from Davis and other Democrats and finding surging popularity ratings in the nation’s most populous state. And Californians rattled by anthrax scares and the threat of future terrorist strikes will be looking for reassurance rather than politics.



”This is a time to register strong support for the president’s actions,” Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio said Tuesday.

Bush is scheduled to address military troops at Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield, Calif., and speak to business leaders in Sacramento. Bush likely will highlight his efforts to boost the nation’s economy, which was already faltering before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.



Security will be extremely tight, with major parts of downtown Sacramento closed to the public for most of the morning. At least one group plans to protest the U.S. attacks in Afghanistan during the visit.

It will be Bush’s second visit to California. During his first visit, the Republican was criticized for waiting nearly five months before visiting the state where voters supported Democratic Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 election.

Bush is scheduled to hold a five-minute meeting with Davis during his visit to the state capital.

That meeting will be different than their May encounter, when Davis challenged the president for opposing price caps on wholesale electricity sales.

On Wednesday, Davis will support Bush, ”thank him for his leadership” and offer some security suggestions, he said.

”There’s no question that he’s responding positively and all of us are behind him,” Davis said.

Rob Stutzman, a consultant for the California Republican Party, said Bush would have returned to California even if the attacks hadn’t happened.

But now, ”the nature of the visit obviously changes as the nature of everything he does probably changes,” Stutzman said.

Bush also arrives at a time when largely Democratic California has given him high marks in recent polls.

Forty-two percent of Californians approved of Bush’s job performance in a Field Institute Poll conducted in May, the same month as his first visit.

But a Field Poll taken after the attacks showed 74 percent of Californians approved his performance.

Stan Forbes, owner of The Avid Reader Bookstore in Sacramento, said he voted against Bush in the past and paid little attention during his first visit in May. Now, Forbes supports Bush, saying, ”He has risen to the occasion.”

Forbes hopes Bush will offer reassuring and confident words to Californians.

”We are just as vulnerable as New York or Florida or any other part of the country,” he said.

On the Net: http://www.whitehouse.gov has information on the presidents efforts in the war on terrorism.


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