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Bush's poll fund target: US$200m

Double what he raised in 2000

STI Thursday 19 JUNE 2003:

“By Roger Mitton

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush has launched his re-election campaign with a massive fund-raising event in the nation's capital.

It is estimated that he raised US$3.5 million (S$6.1 million) from the event on Tuesday evening.

In the next two weeks, he will hold six more fund-raisers, from which he is expected to get at least US$20 million.

The amount approaches the entire sum that all his nine opponents from the Democratic Party have raised in their campaigns during the first three months of this year.

After leading his nation to victory in the Iraq war, Mr Bush continues to enjoy high popularity and he is the runaway favourite to win the presidential election next year.

In that situation, and because Mr Bush's Republican party is the first choice for most US businessmen, it is not surprising that many contributors came forward and opened their wallets.

So, while it may have been a chilly and wet evening outside, it was sunny and warm inside the Washington Hilton Hotel for Mr Bush.

The sum he raised is believed to be a record for a single campaign fund-raiser. He will probably exceed it when he addresses a similar gathering in New York next week that could net him more than US$4 million. After this month's seven fund-raisers, Mr Bush will hold more next month.

Vice-President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush will host similar bashes as part of a plan to raise US$200 million, about twice the record-breaking amount Mr Bush used in his first presidential race in 2000.

The next election is still 16 months away.

According to campaign officials, the millions Mr Bush is now raising will be used for television advertising that will begin later this year.

They will extol his record of 'compassionate conservatism' and attack his opponents for being weak on terror and the economy, and beholden to liberal interests.

The money will also be used to back his allies in congressional elections next year.

At Tuesday's event, about 1,200 of the President's supporters paid US$2,000 to feast on hot dogs, cheeseburgers and nachos while they listened to a 29-minute speech from Mr Bush.

'There's nothing like having a few friends over for a cocktail or two,' said Mr Bush, who was backed by a phalanx of American flags and introduced by his brother and sister.

He told the cheering audience that he would run for re-election on his record in the war against terror and his fight to revive the economy.

'On issue after issue, we acted on principle,' he said. 'We kept our word. And we made progress for the American people.'

Bidding for four more years in the White House, the President said progress was being made towards 'a society of prosperity and compassion, so that every citizen has a chance to work and succeed and realise the promise of America'.

But with the jobless total rising and the economy still slack, there has been criticism of the number of Mr Bush's planned fund-raisers and the large amounts being raised.

Many believe that with no rivals from his own party to worry about and with a huge perceived lead over his opponents, Mr Bush should spend more time on the economy and the continuing battle against terrorism.

The President's recent tax cuts, for example, have been attacked for favouring the kinds of people who can afford to pay large sums to attend these events.

'President Bush has just passed the largest tax cut for the wealthy in history, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that he will now turn to those same people and raise record amounts of money from them,' said Mr Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

To deflect such criticism, the President focused his Tuesday night speech on the duties of his office rather than on raw political campaigning.

'The political season will come in its own time,' he said. 'Right now, this administration is focused on the people's business.'

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.”

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