Bush Attending Fund-Raisers in Michigan, New Jersey

President Bush was banking a fresh $1.75 million for his re-election campaign Monday, opening a heavy week of fund raising before the holidays force him off the money trail for a while.

Wedged in between fund-raisers in Michigan and New Jersey, Bush was plugging his economic agenda at Dynamic Metal Treating Inc. (search), in Canton, Mich.

Bush's 11-hour day on the road was devoted mostly to increasing the size of his re-election war chest. Monday's dual fund-raisers pushed it to at least $110 million just for next year's Republican primary, where he faces no opponent.

The first fund-raiser, in Dearborn, brought in $750,000. A second event, in Whippany, N.J., was worth another $1 million.

Bush planned to return to fund raising on Tuesday in Pittsburgh and Friday in Baltimore. Like Monday's Michigan event, the Baltimore appearance is paired with an official event on the economy.

With holiday receptions and other obligations keeping Bush in Washington more than usual, there is only one other money-raising event on his schedule through year's end - on Dec. 11 in McLean, Va., just across the Potomac River from the capital.

Touchy about criticism he devotes too much time to re-election fund raising, Bush urged donors here to spread the word that "right now the president is working hard to make sure America is secure and strong and prosperous and free."

With the White House counting on an improving economy to bolster Bush's 2004 prospects, his strategy is twofold: trumpet recent evidence that the economy is at the start of a vigorous recovery but, with unemployment (search) still around 6 percent, lament that too many people remain out of work for him to become complacent.

Aides said the president would announce no new job-creation proposals here.

Instead, he pushed the measures he has been saying for months are necessary to ensure a solid footing for the economy, but which so far have not received approval in Congress: Cutting health-care costs by reducing medical-liability lawsuits (search), decreasing class-action lawsuits and making other broad changes to the legal system, increasing domestic energy supplies and making all recently passed tax cuts permanent.

Bush again took credit for signs of recovery, attributing them mostly to his tax cuts.

"With all these actions, we are laying the foundation for greater prosperity and more jobs across America so every single citizen has a chance to realize the American dream," he told 500 donors here. "Our economy is strong and it is getting stronger."

Bush also planned to promote his administration's efforts to pursue free trade pacts with other countries: at the Michigan company, appearing with the owners and employees of Dynamic Metal and another area small business, Spectrum Automotive (search), in a public conversation about rebounding from tough times, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.

Both companies were forced to lay off workers, but now have rehired them.

Such events have recently become a staple of Bush appearances on the road.

Bush lost Michigan in 2000 and has aggressively courted it ever since. Monday marked his 12th visit to the state.

Hanging over him was a decision about whether to repeal tariffs on imported steel - a decision that could have wide-ranging implications for his re-election campaign.

Steel consumers, like Ford Motor Co. (search), which Bush passed in his motorcade, want a repeal of the tariffs, and many Bush advisers have advised him to do so.

But Michigan is also home to some steel makers, who say the tariffs have helped protect them from unfair competition.