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Bush came, spoke and raised money
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President George W. Bush speaks to community college officials in Minneapolis Monday morning. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
President Bush raised $1 million on a swing through Minnesota Monday. Bush appeared at an invitation-only fundraiser at the Edina home of real estate developer David Frauenshuh. The president also addressed the American Association of Community Colleges, calling for new investments in high-tech innovation.

Minneapolis, Minn. — The last time President Bush was in town raising money -- August 2003 -- the cash went to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

The Republican National Committee says the $1 million collected at the Edina gathering went to its "Victory 2004" program. The fund is used for Republican get-out-the-vote efforts to promote GOP candidates from the bottom to the top of the ticket.

The host of the fundraiser, developer David Frauenshuh, declined to speak with Minnesota Public Radio about the event. Reporters were not allowed into the fundraiser, which was attended by about 100 people. Under federal law, the most anyone can contribute to the RNC in one year is $25,000.

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Image Masked protesters

Prior to the fundraiser, President Bush spoke for nearly an hour before almost 2,000 members of the American Association of Community Colleges gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The speech ranged from the war on terrorism to his administration's economic record.

"We have the strongest economy of any major industrialized nation in the world," Bush said. "And that is ... an amazing statement when you think about what this economy and our country has been through."

Bush told the crowd the U.S. invaded Iraq for the right reasons. Bush said Iraq was a threat and that his most important job is to protect the country.

"These are historic times, this is an historic opportunity to spread peace and freedom," said Bush. "I believe that freedom is not America's gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world, and free societies will be peaceful societies."

The president did not address the recent increase in violence in Iraq.

I had a good-paying job in a mine four years ago. I don't have it now. Neither do 40 other steel companies that filed bankruptcy.
- Jerry Fallos, laid-off steel worker

Bush credited the nation's community college system for its role in job training. With the backdrop on stage of banners which read, "America's Innovation Economy," Bush said the best way to strengthen the U.S. economy is for the U.S. to lead the world in innovation.

The president announced $350 million in federal grants for hydrogen fuel cell research.

"When we get the hydrogen car up and running, not only will it make America a better place, we become the innovator of the world. That's what we want to be," said Bush. "We want to be the leader in the world. We want to be the country that leads the world in innovation and technological change."

Bush also promoted the idea of eliminating much of the paperwork associated with health care and replacing it with individualized, private electronic data bases. Bush called the current system antiquated.

"Medicine ought to be using modern technologies in order to better share information, in order to reduce medical errors in order to reduce cost to our health care system by billions of dollars."

Bush also said the U.S. could spur technological growth by increasing access to broadband high speed Internet. Bush called for clearing regulatory hurdles to broadband expansion and for making broadband less expensive.

"And in order to make sure it gets spread to all corners of the country, it must be affordable," said Bush. "We must not tax broadband access. If you want broadband access throughout the society, Congress must ban taxes on access."

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign reacted to Bush's technology proposals by accusing the president of doing "an election year two-step, trying to fool Americans into thinking he's got an economic plan."

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Image Greeting the Guard

Fewer than 100 people protested outside of the convention center during Bush's speech. Most of them, including laid-off steel worker Jerry Fallos from northern Minnesota, were there to criticize the Bush administration's record on job creation.

"I had a good-paying job in a mine four years ago. I don't have it now," Fallos said. "Neither do 40 other steel companies that filed bankruptcy -- and that's just in the last three years and that's just the steel industry."

This was President Bush's eighth visit to Minnesota. Republicans insist every time the president comes to the state, support for the GOP increases. They're predicting this fall Minnesota will go Republican in a presidential race for the first time since 1972.

Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Mike Erlandson disagrees. Next week, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, will be in Minnesota raising money and campaigning. Erlandson says support for Democrats remains strong in Minnesota.

"We believe that the 58,000 that turned out for caucuses, and the people that turn out for events like this, and the people that will turn out to see John Kerry next week, are just going along towards marching us towards victory on November 2nd," says Erlandson.

Minnesota Republican leaders say they expect President Bush to visit the state several more times between now and November.

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