Political File

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While past presidents typically took some time away from work during visits to Hawaii, President Bush's scheduled stop this week does not leave much time for rest and relaxation. Here, President Ronald Reagan, right, and his wife, Nancy, take a break in the water at Kahala Beach.

President’s layover
aims to rally local

Ronald Reagan took a dip at Kahala Beach with the first lady. In between official business, Bill Clinton took advantage of Hawaii's famously warm weather to go jogging, enjoy some time on the golf course and even visit a local Zippy's eatery.

In short, they did what people do when they come to Hawaii.

While past presidents and others heads of state typically take some time away from work during visits to Hawaii, President Bush's stop in the islands on Thursday -- his first as president -- amounts to little more than an extended layover.

Bush arrives en route to Washington, D.C., following his trip through Asia and Australia.

Throughout the trip, his stops have been characterized by tight security that has left little time for sightseeing and almost no room for overnight stays. His itinerary was set to leave him just 21 hours in Australia, 16 hours in Tokyo and 15 hours in Singapore. He is expected to stay roughly 12 hours in Hawaii, longer than either Manila (eight hours) or Indonesia (three hours).

In the past, presidents coming home from Asian trips have used overnight stays in Hawaii to help acclimate to the time difference.

Bush's only public event will be a Thursday night fund-raiser for his re-election campaign.

That doesn't mean the visit will go unnoticed.

He will meet with Gov. Linda Lingle and other fellow Republicans and is sure to cause gridlock through downtown Honolulu if city streets, and possibly the H-1 freeway, are closed down for the presidential motorcade.

"There's always a buzz" when a president visits, said Dan Boylan, a history professor with the University of Hawaii system. "My guess is that even though Hawaii is not a big protesting state, there will be a few folks outside the gates -- wherever Bush stops -- in regards to the war in Iraq."

Such protests already have greeted Bush in parts of Asia.

For security reasons, details of Bush's visit to Hawaii have been guarded closely.

Lingle and other state GOP leaders had invited Bush to include Hawaii as part of his Asia trip.

Lingle has said Bush's visit will give her a chance to talk to him about Hawaii's role in the Asia-Pacific region and about federal recognition of native Hawaiians, issues she also raised when she met with him in Washington in February.

For Bush the brief visit also gives him a chance to court voters in a state that, except for Lingle's election, has been a Democratic stronghold for more than four decades. So far, as he looks toward re-election, Bush has largely avoided states he carried overwhelmingly in 2000 -- or lost by a similarly large margin.

As president the only other states Bush has yet to visit are Rhode Island and Vermont, where Democrat Al Gore won handily in 2000, and Idaho and Kansas, states he carried comfortably.

The political climate in Hawaii is vastly different this time around after voters elected Lingle last year as the state's first Republican governor since 1962.

"He's stopping to help rally Republicans, and this is a Republican Party that is resurgent," Boylan said, adding that Bush is moving from securing his conservative base to trying to sell himself again as a "compassionate conservative."

"Here he has a chance to embrace a moderate Republican in Linda Lingle," Boylan said. "I think you're going to see more and more of that."

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