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Bush predicts voters will replace him with GOP president who will ’keep up the fight’ in Iraq

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Posted: February 26, 2008 2:26 p.m.
Updated: March 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    WASHINGTON — President Bush predicted Monday that voters will replace him with a Republican president who will ‘‘keep up the fight’’ in Iraq.
    ‘‘I’m confident we’ll hold the White House in 2008,’’ Bush told donors at the Republican Governors Association annual dinner, which raised a record $10.6 million for GOP gubernatorial candidates.
    ‘‘And I don’t want the next Republican president to be lonely,’’ Bush said. ‘‘And that is why we got to take the House, retake the Senate, and make sure our states are governed by Republican governors.’’
    The pep talk came in the midst of a presidential campaign that largely has overshadowed Bush’s final year in office. Bush has promised to be an active fundraiser, and he had no trouble slipping into enthusiastic campaign mode Monday evening.
    He said Republicans still offer the bedrock positions that voters embrace: strong defense, low taxes and personal freedoms.
    ‘‘When I say I’m confident, I am so because I understand the mentality of the American people,’’ Bush said. ‘‘And I understand the mentality of our candidates. And there’s no question in my mind, with your help, 2008 is going to be a great year.’’
    Democratic governors have a 28-22 edge nationally, having regained a majority in 2006 after 12 years of GOP dominance. Eleven seats are up this year.
    The Republican governors still have the financial edge, with the Republican Governors Association raising $22 million last year, to $13 million for its Democratic counterpart. That includes $9 million cash on hand for the RGA, compared to $7 million for the Democratic Governors Association.
    In Congress, Democrats took control of the House and Senate in 2006. Bush has sought to remain relevant through his veto power and bully pulpit.
    On Iraq, he pledged Monday that he would use his remaining time in office to make whatever decisions are needed to ‘‘make sure that we succeed in Iraq.’’ The country has long grown weary of the war, although economic concerns have overtaken Iraq as the top concern among voters.
    ‘‘I believe the American people understand that success in Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of the American people,’’ Bush said. ‘‘And we will elect somebody to the White House who will keep up the fight to make sure Iraq is secure and free.’’
    Republican governors, as chief executives and effective fundraisers, see themselves as the key to turning around their party.
    Four of the last five presidents, including the current one, were governors.
    One former Republican governor, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, remains in the presidential race, but the next president is all but certain to come from the Senate — Republican John McCain, or Democrats Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton.
    About 1,400 people attended the event at the cavernous National Building Museum, where they dined on grilled shrimp, spring rolls, gumbo and crab cakes before filtering into an adjacent room to hear Bush.
    Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report.

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