President Bush helped Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle raise over a million dollars Tuesday night. “That’s just fantastic,” Nussle says of the turn-out of about 1000 Iowa Republicans. “We’re very proud of that and very encouraged by that.” Nussle campaign staff say it’s the biggest one-day cash haul in Iowa campaign history.

Bush spoke briefly at the Nussle fundraiser held in Des Moines, and sought to counter those who’ve criticized Nussle for his stewardship of the federal budget as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Bush told the crowd Nussle had been drafting “lean budgets” with the goal of reducing the federal deficit. “The best way to balance this budget is to keep your taxes low so this economy grows and be wise about how we spend your money,” Bush said. “Jim Nussle’s doing just that as the Budget (Committee) chairman in the House.”

The president’s approval ratings have dipped significantly, but Nussle says he’s happy to have Bush campaign for him and does not believe the president will have negative impact on his own race. “Any time that the commander-in-chief and the chief executive of our country wants to come to Iowa – either to support me or to listen to Iowans concerns, listen to their priorities — I think we should welcome them,” Nussle says.

According to Nussle, few presidents have had to tackle the kind of challenges Bush has had on his plate — from 9/11 attacks to a recession to hurricanes. “These are challenges that no president would want to have to tackle but this president tackled them head on with courage, with principled leadership. I’m proud of him,” Nussle says. “But clearly, when you have to make those kinds of decisions, there will be people who will agree and people who will disagree.”

In mid-afternoon Bush met briefly with elderly residents of a Des Moines nursing and assisted living facility, posed for pictures and spoke about the prescription drug benefit that’s now available through Medicare.

The three Demorats running for governor held soup suppers in four Iowa cities last night to raise money for soup kitchens and food banks. Mike Blouin, Chet Culver and Ed Fallon say the events highlight the plight of Iowans who’ve been hurt by federal budget cuts.

Nussle dismisses the soup suppers as a gimmick. “They’re serving soup. We’re serving substance,” Nussle says. “I think if they really wanted to help people in Iowa they’d serve up some substance instead of just personal attacks and anti-presidential banter.”

The emcee of last night’s Nussle event was former Dubuque Mayor Terry Duggan who says he switched his party registration from Democrat to Republican last Friday. “I’ve always been a very conservative person,” Duggan says. Duggan has voted for Nussle in each of his congressional races, and supported Republican Governors Ray and Branstad. “I’ve always voted for the person,” Duggan says.

Duggan turned 18 at the height of Watergate, he wasn’t fond of Richard Nixon and his mom and dad were Democrats so Duggan registered as a Democrat. Duggan, who served as Dubuque’s mayor from 1995 to January of this year, does not plan to seek political office again. Duggan doesn’t believe his party switch will bother that many people in Dubuque. “They might be surprised that I changed the affiliation but it has not changed me and my ideas,” Duggan says. “A lot of people used to kid me that I was the most Republican Democrat that they had ever run into.”