President George W. Bush plans to visit Columbia on Tuesday, highlighting the importance of Missouri as a swing state in what will be his 21st visit to the state since taking office.
Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm confirmed the president’s visit Thursday but has not received any details about the trip, including where and when Bush will speak. However, he was confident the visit will occur.
“To the best of my knowledge, it is happening,” Boehm said. “It’s as definite as things get in this kind of arena.”
The White House could not confirm the trip Thursday afternoon or provide any further details.
“We typically announce the president’s schedule the Friday of the week before,” said White House spokesman Jim Morrell.
Although this will be Bush’s first visit to Boone County, Vice President Dick Cheney has visited as recently as July. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has also campaigned in the area, visiting Fulton in April.
It is unknown whether the president will appear alone or with other Republicans who occupy or are seeking political office.
“Any time the president comes to Missouri, he’s helping candidates from the statewide candidates to the legislative candidates to the local candidates,” said Paul Sloca, communications director for the Missouri Republican Party.
Though he couldn’t comment on any specifics of the visit, Sloca said Columbia would be a logical campaign stop because of its many young voters. He said that demographic is a target audience for the Republican Party.
“Our goal is to get as many of those people out to the polls as possible,” Sloca said.
In the 2000 election, Bush won Missouri, but lost Boone County to then-Vice President Al Gore by less than 1 percent.
Democrats hope to continue this winning trend with an emphasis on the economy.
“I would say George Bush should come to mid-Missouri and explain where all the jobs have gone,” said Christine Glunz, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee.
Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said his organization is currently considering protesting the visit. The organization staged protests when Kerry visited Westminster College and during three separate visits by Cheney.
“His administration has been bad for the environment, bad for the economy and bad for people here and around the world,” Haim said. He said the protests are not of a politically partisan nature, but rather to advocate issues such as peace and energy policy.
Matt Lammers, an MU graduate student, said he is curious to see how a politically divided town will respond to the trip.
“It will be interesting to see how this community turns out for his visit,” Lammers said. “I’d like to see how both sides react.”
The last presidential visit to Columbia was on July 6, 2000, when President Bill Clinton spoke with then-Gov. Mel Carnahan at Jesse Hall on the MU campus.
The visit attracted huge crowds at every site Clinton visited. Two hundred people were at Columbia Regional Airport for the president’s arrival, hundreds more lined the route of the motorcade, and more than one thousand packed into Jesse Hall to hear his speech.
— Missourian reporter Bernell Dorrough contributed to this report