WASHINGTON -- Many Republicans on the ballot in November have been distancing themselves from the White House, not wanting to be dragged under by President Bush's approval ratings and the growing anxiety over Iraq.
But that doesn't mean they're fleeing his cash offerings.
Despite polls that suggest Bush's approval ratings are in the mid- to upper-30s, the president remains the nation's most successful fund-raiser. Vice President Dick Cheney, whose poll numbers are even lower than Bush's, is not far behind. Both have raised millions of dollars for GOP candidates running in elections this year.
Even as some Republicans differ more with the White House on a range of issues, they're still lining up for the president's campaign dollars.
''I would be shocked if a legitimate Republican candidate, not just a fringe candidate, who got word that the president was coming to do a fund-raiser said, 'No, don't come to my district,' " Rich Galen, a GOP consultant, said.
That said, Republican candidates don't want to be forced off message by such a visit and ''have to spend the next two or three days talking about the president's policies . . . or what happened yesterday" in Iraq, Galen said.
It has resulted in some fancy GOP footwork as candidates in tight races step away from Bush and Cheney on divisive issues but embrace them when the subject is money.
Bush presided over a fund-raiser yesterday for Representative Mike Sodrel of Indiana at The Murat Centre in Indianapolis, calling Sodrel ''a strong supporter of the United States military" and citing ''troubled times."
Another fund-raiser was scheduled for later yesterday for Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at a private residence in the Pittsburgh area.
He's doing another fund-raiser at a Washington hotel on Monday for Montana's senator, Conrad Burns, where $1,000 will get you in the door, and $10,000 in combined contributions from others will get you a ''photo opportunity with the president," according to an invitation.
Bush and Santorum, the number three Republican in the Senate, were not scheduled to appear together publicly yesterday. Santorum, trailing Democrat Bob Casey in polls, broke with Bush on a plan to have an Arab company based in Dubai run terminals at some US ports, and has raised concerns about the administration's conduct of the war in Iraq.
When Bush went to Cleveland earlier in the week, there was a noticeable absence of top Ohio Republicans, including Senator Mike DeWine, who is locked in a tight reelection race.
Cheney went to Newark earlier in the week to help raise $400,000 for Tom Kean Jr., a New Jersey GOP Senate candidate. But Kean showed up 15 minutes after Cheney left. Kean said he got stuck in traffic, an assertion critics questioned based on the route he took.
Michael Steele, the GOP Senate candidate in Maryland, skipped Bush's speech at the US Naval Academy in November, but joined the president later at a $500,000 fund-raiser.
Concerns over the Iraq war are weighing down Republicans and causing strains between Bush and his congressional allies. ''The big issue is now the war," said the House majority leader, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio.
A president is typically his party's chief fund-raiser, and Bush has embraced the role like no other, besting Bill Clinton in total dollars collected. Bush headlined events that raised more than $140 million for Republican Party committees and candidates in each of the 2002 and 2004 election cycles.
In 2005, Bush held 20 fund-raising events, raising $75.5 million, while Cheney held 36 events that brought in $15 million. This year, Bush has held six events, raising $12.5 million, and Cheney has held 11 events that raised $1.6 million, according to a GOP tabulation.