St. Paul, Minn. — The Bush campaign says about 600 people, each paying $2,000, turned out for the president's fundraiser which national campaign officials say brought in $1.2 million.
Minnesota Bush-Cheney activists said they hoped, when it's counted, they will have raised closer to $1.4 million for the president's re-election war chest.
For their contribution, Bush supporters heard the president speak for about 25 minutes.
Bush, thanking the crowd for its support noted sparse State Fair-themed lunch offering, which included Pronto Pups and lemonade.
"I appreciate such a huge response for our invitation to come for a little light meal," Bush joked.
Bush told the group he was laying the groundwork for what he said would be a great, national re-election victory in November of 2004.
The president, who lost Minnesota in 2000 by less than three percentage points, said he needs more than money to win this time.
Bush urged supporters to tell their friends and neighbors his administration will continue to work for what the president called a positive and hopeful vision for every American.
"I'm loosening up and I'm getting ready for the campaign. But there's going to be plenty of time for politics because I've got a job to do, the people's business, and we have a lot on our agenda in Washington D.C."
Bush defended the Republican tax cuts, saying when Americans have more money the economy grows. He touted his work to increase accountability in education and to reorganize several government agencies into a single Department of Homeland Security.
Referring to the nation's war on terrorism, President Bush said the enemies of freedom are not idle, nor is the United States.
"This country will not rest. We will not tire, and we will not stop until this danger to civilization is removed."
The president said on issue after issue his administration has acted out of principle, and made progress.
"In two and a half years, we've come far, we've done a lot. We've taken on a lot of problems. But our work is only beginning. We have great goals," said the president.
Bush said the future of freedom and piece depend on the actions of America which the president called freedom's home.
With Congress's summer recess wrapping up, Bush called for medical liability tort reform, and a Medicare prescription drug package both houses can agree on. He accused some members of the Senate of playing politics with justice for putting off votes on judicial appointments. And Bush said it's time for Congress to act on the energy plan he unveiled during a previous visit to St. Paul's RiverCentre, in the spring of 2001, months after he took office.
"The recent breakdown of the deliverability of electricity on the East Coast should send a clear signal to the United States Congress that we need a comprehensive energy plan, that we need to modernize our system, that we need mandatory reliability standards and that we need incentives to encourage investment."
Speaking prior to Bush's arrival, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, also a Republican, said for the first time in modern history Minnesota has the opportunity to throw its electoral votes to a GOP presidential candidate.
"I get asked a lot -- why is that? What has happened in Minnesota -- traditionally what many consider a classic liberal state? What has happened in Minnesota that gives President Bush that tremendous opportunity? And the answer is in large part because leadership and ideas matter," said Pawlenty.
Outside the RiverCentre, about 100 people protested the president's fundraising visit to Minnesota.
"We need jobs! We need jobs!" some chanted.
Several unions, the JOBS Now Coalition and the Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action staged a mock search for the economic recovery President Bush often talks about. They used binoculars, magnifying glasses and road maps as props, and noted that Minnesota's unemployment rate is the highest it's been in nearly a decade.
Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME's Take Back Minnesota campaign, says he sees no job creation under President Bush.
"And while fat cats are raising dollars on the inside for partisan politics, the people of America and the people of Minnesota continue to suffer with record unemployment rates, people on unemployment going off unemployment benefits, people have stopped looking for jobs," said Seide.
Protestors carried signs such as "Read my lips - no second term" and "You're fired." A group of teenagers played soccer on the blocked-off Kellogg Boulevard. Sonya Ruppel, 15, of Edina, says they wanted to tell the president that he doesn't have the support of all of the soccer moms and soccer players.
"There are people that just don't agree with him, and he can't count on their vote because he's just done so many things that are just not good for the economy -- and just America in general," said Ruppel.
Ruppel wore a button that read "Do something good for the environment - plant Bush back in Texas." Also in the crowd were a handful of supporters for Democratic presidential candidates Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich. Dean supporter Reade Bailey of Eden Prairie says President Bush's policies make him angry.
"Without a doubt, Bush will be the first president to have a net loss of jobs under his watch since Hoover 70 years ago -- that was during the Great Depression. And so this trickle-down economics, the $1.6 trillion in tax cuts have not worked," said Bailey.
Bailey arrived at the site of the president's fundraiser hours before it began, and sarcastically asked people entering the RiverCentre to thank the president for creating so many jobs. And as Bush supporters left the $2,000 a plate lunch, they walked a gauntlet of hecklers.
One man smiled at the protestors, raised his fist and mouthed "Go Bush!" Another Bush supporter, Dennis Frandsen of Rush City, says the heckling didn't bother him.
"They were just asking me how much I make per hour and I said a lot! That's ok, isn't it?"
Republican Party Chair Ron Eibensteiner told the protesters to get a job -- he says they got under his skin. He says Bush has a lot of support in Minnesota, and says if the election were held today, Bush would carry the state.
"All you have to do is go at the State Fair, at our booth at the State Fair. We are just being inundated with folks coming by our booth, wanting Bush pictures or any other information or literature that we have," said Eibensteiner. "We've gotten a lot of volunteers. Our whole grassroots organization is substantially better than it was in 2002, and by the way, I thought in 2002 it was pretty darn good."
DFL leaders disagree with Eibensteiner's prediction. At a news conference earlier in the day, U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton says Minnesotans don't support the Bush tax cut and Bush economic policies. He says if the 2004 election were held today, Minnesotans would reject four more years of President Bush.
Bush has now visited Minnesota seven times since being elected. State Republican leaders say they expect more visits, considering Minnesota's relatively new found battleground status when it comes to presidential politics.