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August 30, 2014

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Sorry we missed ya

Unpopular president will be in Vegas, but GOP leaders conveniently won’t be

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Sun Photo Illustration

It’s lonely at the top, especially when you’re an unpopular president.

When President Bush speaks in Las Vegas on Thursday, he will not be joined by any of Nevada’s members of Congress.

He has visited Nevada nine times as president and on all but one of those occasions he was either greeted or escorted by at least one member of the Nevada delegation. The exception occurred during a two-hour campaign stop in Las Vegas in 2004, when the president was bouncing among states on his reelection bid.

On the heels of his final State of the Union address, Bush will be here Thursday to speak about the global war on terrorism. He will also appear at a fundraiser for the Nevada Republican Party.

Among the Republicans not sharing the stage with him: Rep. Jon Porter, who said he is committed to appointments in Washington. He didn’t elaborate.

Spokesman Matt Leffingwell said Porter received an invitation from the White House on Thursday, asking him to greet Bush at McCarran International Airport and attend the president’s speech. But by that time, Leffingwell said, the congressman’s schedule was full of afternoon meetings with out-of-town visitors in Washington.

As for John Ensign: Yes, the senator also received an invitation, but the Senate is in session, said spokesman Tory Mazzola.

The Senate is considering extending the surveillance law Congress hastily adopted in August when the White House warned of dangerous gaps in its surveillance authority. But Democrats and Republicans have been at loggerheads over new legislation that would give retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that allowed the government to wiretap their customers without court permission.

The surveillance law expires Friday, and Mazzola said Ensign would be busy pushing for the White House-favored update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (Indeed, Bush plans to push for the law in his speech here Thursday, according to an Associated Press report.)

Rep. Dean Heller’s Washington spokesman did not return repeated calls regarding the congressman’s schedule.

Bush’s previous visit to Nevada came in August, when he spoke to veterans at the American Legion’s National Convention in Reno. There, during his fourth trip to that city, he was accompanied by Heller and his wife, Lynn, who sang the national anthem before the event. The president visited Nevada three times in 2006, twice on behalf of Heller, who was seeking to succeed Jim Gibbons to represent Nevada’s 2nd District, and once for Porter.

The presidential visits provide Congress members and local officials the rare opportunity to promote state issues with a direct line to the White House. For instance, during Bush’s first visit to Nevada in 2003, both Gibbons and Porter, along with Gov. Kenny Guinn and his wife, Dema, rode in the president’s limo. Porter, for one, pushed the state’s opposition to Yucca Mountain, a project the president supports.

Still, Porter now faces a potentially tough reelection fight in November, and Bush’s abysmal approval ratings, combined with Porter’s swing district, likely make Washington’s climate more appealing — at least on Thursday.

Sun librarian Rebecca Clifford contributed to this report.

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