Bush tour bags $4.6 million for GOP
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (CNN) -- Wrapping up a three-day Western trip dominated by intensive fund raising, President Bush on Saturday urged Congress to pass his homeland security plan when members returns from their August recess.
The House of Representatives has already passed legislation setting up a new Department of Homeland Security, but the measure has not yet cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate. The White House has asked Congress to approve $379 billion in defense spending in its 2003 budget, and Bush urged lawmakers to approve supplemental appropriations for the military upon their return to Washington.
"We're at war," the president told those gathered at New Mexico State University. "We need to send that signal loud and clear to our troops and to the world that we're strongly united in this effort to win the war against terror."
Bush's appearance in New Mexico capped a visit marked by intensive fund raising on behalf of Republican candidates, including embattled California gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon.
A president is always his party's biggest fund-raising attraction, and Bush has made it the top priority for his August working vacation. He raised more than $600,000 in New Mexico, $1 million in Oregon and $3 million in California during his three-day visit, with stops in Oklahoma and Arkansas coming up this week.
So far this year, he has raised $111 million in 23 states, breaking records as he tries to aid GOP candidates in November's midterm elections. But Bush's effort is also focused on states where Bush hopes to improve his showing in 2004 -- including California, which has 55 electoral votes after the 2000 Census.
"Last time, the Democrats spent virtually nothing, and Al Gore won the state by over 1 million votes," Democratic strategist Bill Carrick said. "So they're trying to make it competitive."
Bush lost New Mexico by fewer than 400 votes in 2000, so he mixed outreach to Latino voters in with fund raising for GOP gubernatorial nominee John Sanchez and House candidate Steve Pearce on Saturday.
"It's great to come to a place where you can see cowboy hats and belt buckles," he said.
Bush said passing his homeland security bill and increasing defense spending would reward those fighting the war on terrorism and send a message to the world that the United States intends to keep up the fight.
"History has called us to action," he said. "We're going to stay on course, stay steady, until we have achieved the mission, which is to make the world free -- to defend our freedoms."
Bush said the nation is engaged in a "different kind of war" than earlier conflicts.
"We are no longer able to count the size of the enemy by counting tanks or airplanes or ships," he said. "This is an enemy which hides in caves and then sends youngsters to their suicidal death." But the United States, he pledged, "will be relentless and patient and strong ... and we're going to win the war on terror."
-- CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report.
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