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Bush rings up millions in Georgia fund-raiser

First lady, vice president also raising money

President Bush waves to supporters at a fund-raiser Tuesday in Washington.
President Bush waves to supporters at a fund-raiser Tuesday in Washington.

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GREENSBORO, Georgia (CNN) -- President Bush flew to a Georgia golf resort Friday night and left with $2.25 million for his 2004 re-election effort, as his campaign begins revving up a fund-raising juggernaut designed to bury Democrats under a mountain of GOP cash.

"I'm loosened up. I'm getting ready," Bush told a crowd of about 800 gathered at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge in Greensboro, about 70 miles east of Atlanta. "You put the wind at my back. You give me a lot of confidence to take on the task ahead."

Friday's event was held at a lodge owned by Mercer Reynolds, a former business partner of the president who is serving as national finance chairman for Bush's re-election campaign. The requested contribution was at least $2,000 per person, the new limit for individual contributions to federal campaigns.

The fund-raiser was attended by a Who's Who of the Georgia GOP, including U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Gov. Sonny Perdue and six members of the state's U.S. House delegation.

The Bush campaign has set a goal of raising $20 million by the end of June, on its way to raising between $150 million to $170 million for the GOP primary campaign -- a record amount of cash, even though he faces no primary opposition.

The money will allow the Bush campaign to advertise and ramp up campaign efforts early next year -- while nine Democrats in the race are still battling among themselves for the right to face the president.

Bush began his fund-raising blitz Tuesday in Washington, where he raised $3.5 million at an event featuring hot dogs, hamburgers and nachos. On Monday, he'll head to New York for a fund-raiser hosted by Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He will also raise money this month in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; and Miami and Tampa; Florida.

First lady Laura Bush also got into the fund-raising act Friday, raising $500,000 at a luncheon in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She will be host of two more events this month, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Vice President Dick Cheney will headline fund raisers this month in Richmond, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts; Akron, Ohio; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In his speech to the Georgia GOP faithful, Bush outlined what he sees as the administration's achievements on issues including tax cuts, education and the war on terrorism.

"I came to the office of the presidency to solve problems, instead of passing them on to other presidents or other generations," he said. "I came to seize opportunities, instead of letting them slip away. We are meeting the tests of our time.

"On issue after issue, this administration has acted on principle, has kept its word and has made progress for the American people."

Bush also outlined likely themes of the campaign, calling for changes in Medicare and a reining in of medical malpractice suits, as well as pitching his energy plan and his initiative to allow faith-based groups to provide government-funded social services.

--CNN White House Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.


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