WASHINGTON — U.S. President George W. Bush, weighed down by record unpopularity, was to stay invisible Tuesday as U.S. voters decided the race to succeed him come January, the White House indicated Tuesday.
Bush was to have dinner with U.S. First Lady Laura Bush and watch the election returns in the residence section of the presidential mansion, but had no plans to speak or appear in public, his press office said.
And once it is clear whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain will be the 44th U.S. president, Bush's spokeswoman Dana Perino was to offer the White House's official reaction.
Bush endorsed McCain in a high-profile public White House event in March, but the Arizona senator has mostly fled from the incumbent, who is vastly unpopular with U.S. voters.
In recent days, Bush has barely appeared in public — and then sometimes only for seconds as he walked from his Oval Office to the Marine One presidential helicopter on his way from the Camp David retreat.
Perino has blamed the heavy workload from the global financial crisis, the war in Georgia, or recent hurricanes, while acknowledging that Bush was mostly a burden for McCain.
"The Republican Party wanted to make this election about John McCain, and that's appropriate," she said Monday.
Bush "realizes that this election is not about him," but "remains hopeful that John McCain will pull it out," she told reporters.
"But he also is realistic about the political environment that we're in."
"This president has taken on really big issues, and he's been tested in many ways, and this is a president who has done big things. And often when you do big things and you make tough decisions, they're not popular," said Perino.
"President Bush understands that. That said, he loves this country, he loves the people, he's loved the job, and he'll be watching tomorrow night with great interest as the returns come in," she said.
© 2008 Agence France Presse