A Greener Bush? Environment Fits Political Strategy

With war approaching, advisors say the president needs to shore up his standing with suburban women.

Published: 01-Feb-2003

INGTON, Jan. 31 — President Bush's prominent mentions of clean air, healthy forests and pollution-free cars in his State of the Union speech reflect what Republican strategists say is an effort to repair his image on environmental issues.

It was no accident, the strategists say, that Mr. Bush made no mention of his more divisive goal to increase drilling in the Alaska wilderness or that his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told reporters the other day that his boss was following Theodore Roosevelt's tradition of environmentalism.

With the possibility of war approaching, the strategists say the president needs to shore up his standing with suburban women and other crucial swing voters who say they are fearful about what they see as an imminent war with Iraq. Those constituencies, recent opinion polls show, are more likely than other voters to say they regard environmental protections as crucial work of government.

A Republican pollster, Neil Newhouse, called Mr. Bush's steps insulation and likened them to the strategy of the president's brother Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in his re-election campaign last year, when he pushed to restore the Everglades and ban offshore oil drilling, two priorities for Florida voters.

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