Bush visit energizes Republicansby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
President Bush mixed policy and politics into a four and a half hour trip to Minnesota Tuesday. He even took time to stop for some vanilla custard. The president led a panel discussion on health care in Minnetonka and later appeared at a fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Michele Bachmann in Wayzata.
Minnetonka, Minn. — For most Republicans, it was hard to keep from smiling. A visit from President Bush was just what the party faithful needed on a warm summer day to fire up the troops for the coming election.
U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman waited on the tarmac for the president's arrival at the Minnesota Air National Guard base. Coleman isn't up for re-election for another two years. But he says President Bush's visit means a lot to his fellow Republicans who are on the ballot this fall.
"I think the president always brings an energy. I mean part of the business is for our team to be more fired up than the other team," said Coleman. "And I always think people are more enthused when they're for something rather than simply against it. So I always consider this a strong net plus."
Coleman and the state's other top Republicans traveled with President Bush to Minnetonka for a panel discussion on providing consumers more information on the price and quality of health care.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty was there, along with Republican Reps. Mark Kennedy, John Kline, Jim Ramstad, and State Sen. Michele Bachmann, who is running for Congress.
Bush used the event to promote new electronic medical record-keeping and allowing small businesses to form buying pools to reduce their cost of health insurance. He also emphasized the need to protect doctors and hospitals from frivolous lawsuits.
"I'm not trying to turn this thing into a political deal. I'm just telling you, for the sake of this country and for the sake of good medicine, we better get some good medical liability reform out of the United States Senate," said Bush.
The president's motorcade passed by about 75 protesters near the hotel where he spoke. They held signs and sang songs in support of health care coverage for every American, and called for an end to the war in Iraq.
"We want them to get the message that we're very unhappy about the way the country is being run," said Jim, a protester from New Brighton who wouldn't provide his last name. "We're better than this, we've got a Constitution. We have to follow the Constitution. If we don't have the Constitution, what do we have left?"
President Bush was greeted by plenty of supporters too, who stood along the route of his motorcade through the western suburbs.
Bush made an unexpected stop at Glaciers Custard and Coffee Cafe in Wayzata, where he ordered a cup of vanilla custard. He also surprised 18-year-old Carrie Rossman and her friends, who are regulars at the cafe.
"We shook his hand and he gave us hugs and took probably 50 pictures with him. It was pretty cool," Rossman said.
President Bush capped off the day in Wayzata at a private fundraiser for Michele Bachmann's 6th District congressional campaign, although Wayzata is not in that district.
Bachmann says about 325 people attended, and her campaign raised more than $500,000. Bachmann says she also got a big emotional boost from the president.
"He said, 'We need to run hard and win,' and he said, 'I know you will, I know you're going to win.' He said, 'I know you're going to do a fabulous job in Congress,'" said Bachmann. "And it was just humbling and gratifying for me to know I have the confidence of the president in running this race. And that gives me a lot of energy to go forward now for the next 70-odd days until November 7."
Bachmann is running for the congressional seat being vacated by Mark Kennedy, who's running for U.S. Senate. John Binkowski is the Independence Party candidate.
Patty Wetterling is Bachmann's DFL opponent. Wetterling also spent the day talking about health care. She viewed the Bush visit as a positive sign for her own campaign.
"I believe that we are resonating with voters in the 6th district, my message of hope and opportunity for middle-class families," said Wetterling. "I'm doing well in this district, and I believe they are sending everyone from Washington. This is the top of a very long series of visitors they have sent to try to elevate my opponent, who is with the president today."
Wetterling had a significant fundraising edge over her Republican opponent earlier this summer. Campaign financial reports released in July showed Wetterling raised almost twice as much money in the second quarter as Michele Bachmann. She also had more money in the bank at that time than Bachmann.
- Morning Edition, 08/23/2006, 7:30 a.m.