FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – President Bush set out Monday on a Florida swing intended to boost Republicans' chances in the fall elections by raising money and promoting Medicare benefits.
Bush was the headline attraction at a fundraiser that brought in more than $800,000 for GOP Rep. Clay Shaw, who is in a tough fight in this district. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry narrowly defeated Bush here in the 2004 campaign.
Shaw has only a slight financial advantage over his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Ron Klein.
"We started out hoping we could raise $500,000 and now we're over $800,000," Shaw said after the event.
Outside the gated community, about 50 people protested the Bush administration and the Iraq war, carrying signs that read "Stop oil addiction" and "Hands off my civil rights."
The president appeared behind closed doors at the lagoon-side mansion owned by Mike Maroone, president and chief operating officer of AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. auto retailer.
After spending the night in Fort Lauderdale, Bush was traveling to three Florida communities Tuesday and Wednesday to promote Medicare's new coverage for prescription drugs ahead of a May 15 deadline for seniors to enroll.
Though the complicated program has been sowing some confusion among seniors, the White House hopes it will recover from early glitches and prove a popular selling point for congressional Republicans in November's midterm elections.
Bush's Medicare pitch will take him from a community college in Coconut Creek, north of Fort Lauderdale, to a retirement community at Sun City Center, south of Tampa, on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he is set to speak in Orlando before heading back to Washington.