DENVER – President Bush likened his Democratic rival John Kerry (search) to the quickly changing weather in Colorado, telling supporters at a Republican Party fund-raiser Tuesday night that his opponent stands on all sides of all issues.
"The American president must speak clearly and mean what he says," Bush said.
Bush traveled to Colorado, which has nine electoral votes, to raise money and rally his conservative base. He won the state in 2000 with 50.8 percent of the vote to Al Gore's (search) 42.4 percent.
"What we've done is make sure that we're going to carry Colorado again," Bush said.
The fund-raiser at a Denver conference center raised $2.2 million for the Republican Party, according to Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign. Couples paid at least $5,000 to attend. Bush said the party fund-raising events help ensure there's "water in the bucket to water our grass roots — turn out the vote."
Bush sounded familiar campaign themes, urging less dependence on foreign oil, claiming his economic initiatives will lead to a stronger America and saying the man who sits in the Oval Office for the next four years will direct the war on terror. He lauded troops in Iraq while denouncing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Supporters lined Bush's motorcade route, but as he left the fund-raiser several dozen anti-war protesters chanted, "No more Bush."
On Wednesday, the president plans to travel to the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs to give a commencement address in which he will discuss the war on terrorism and U.S. efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East.
He's also to meet with James Dobson, head of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. Dobson is a leading supporter of a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar legal recognition of same-sex marriages. The group also supports the president's plan to allow religious organizations to compete for federal social services contracts.
Floyd Ciruli, an independent political analyst in Denver, said Bush is using the trip to reassure conservative voters he still supports their causes, and to make sure they turn out at the polls. Ciruli said Bush is also sending a message that he is not backing down on gay marriage, which mushroomed into a major political issue this year after gay couples were legally wed in California and Massachusetts.
Bush landed in Colorado under sunny skies. He had left a rain-swept Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday afternoon. An umbrella the president was carrying to keep dry between Marine One and the presidential aircraft was flipped inside out by a gust of wind. After struggling unsuccessfully to fix the umbrella, he handed it off to an aide and walked up the airplane stairs in the rain.