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President's seventh visit to Minnesota to raise campaign funds
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President George W. Bush visits St. Paul Tuesday for a campaign fundraiser. Bush is expected to continue paying attention to Minnesota because of its potential as a swing state in the 2004 election. (Photo courtesy of the White House)
President Bush visits Minnesota Tuesday to raise money for his 2004 re-election campaign. The president will appear at a $2,000 a plate lunch in downtown St. Paul that is expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaign.

St. Paul, Minn. — Unlike the president's other fundraising visits, this time George W. Bush is raising money for himself and not for local Republican candidates.

Bush-Cheney 2004 Minnesota campaign co-chair Ben Whitney says he's expecting a couple of hundred people at the fundraiser. Whitney says he doesn't know how much money will be collected. He says many people are contributing but are not planning to attend the lunch.

"We're going to raise all the money we can. You know, this is important, for Minnesota to raise the resources to help provide them so Minnesota can be a battleground state -- which is an extraordinary opportunity for us. And we're going to do that, and we're just thrilled to have the president there and we're getting a great response," Whitney says.

And that's apparently the case around the country.

According to Federal Election Commission filings, the Bush-Cheney campaign took in more than $35 million during the first six months of this year. And almost all of that fundraising was done in a matter of just a few weeks in late spring and early summer.

There's going to be an awful lot of administration attention to Minnesota. A lot of campaign attention, a lot of ads on the air beginning either late this year or very early next year.
- Steven Schier, Carleton College political scientist

The Associated Press estimates the President's war chest has grown by more than $10 million since the beginning of July, putting his total at more than $46 million.

Some political analysts predict Bush will spend as much as $200 million on his campaign, even before the Republican convention next September.

"The fact that Bush has raised so much money, and the fact that he raised it in such a short time, is really astounding," says Steven Weiss.

Steven Weiss is with the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign contributions. Weiss says changes in campaign finance laws -- doubling the amount an individual can give a candidate, from $1,000 to $2,000 -- appear to give the Republican president an edge over the large field of Democratic challengers.

"With increased contribution limits, the more individuals you know who are going to give and the more individuals who can give the maximum, the more you benefit as a candidate under the new law. Bush is showing that he's benefited very much from the increase in contributions," Weiss says.

According to mid-year FEC reports, President Bush had taken in more than twice what the Democratic fundraising front-runner, Sen. John Kerry, had collected.

Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier says Bush's visit will not only add to the president's campaign war chest, it will also likely bolster the president's image in Minnesota. Minnesota is one of a handful of Midwestern states which could go either Democratic or Republican in the next election.

"Minnesota is a real target state for the Bush campaign. When he comes in to raise money -- not only does he leave with a lot of money, but he gets local media attention. That can have campaign benefits down the road for the president, particularly in a state that his campaign thinks is a very important swing state," Schier says.

Bush lost Minnesota by less than 3 percentage points in 2000. Since being elected he's been to the state six times. Republicans say the president's support grows with each visit he makes to Minnesota.

The Bush campaign says it will announce how much money it's taking in at the Minnesota fundraiser later Tuesday. Whatever the amount, Schier says the Bush campaign will be spending money in the state, not just just raising it here.

"There's going to be an awful lot of administration attention to Minnesota. A lot of campaign attention, a lot of ads on the air beginning either late this year or very early next year," Schier says.

The fundraiser will feature State Fair decorations and food, like pronto pups and deep fried cheese curds. It's billed as the "Great Minnesota Get-Together honoring George W. Bush."

Opponents of the president's domestic and international policies hope Bush will see a less celebratory side of the state on his way in and out of the convention center.

Beth Fraser of the Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action says MAPA members will station themselves outside the RiverCentre with maps, binoculars and telescopes, depicting a search for signs of the economic recovery that the White House says is at hand.

"I hope that he does take notice that not everyone is happy about the state of the economy right now, and this is an issue that he should be giving more priority to, and that trickle down tax cuts aren't the way to put food on the table," Fraser says.

Women Against Military Madness also plans to stage a demonstration outside of the RiverCentre.

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