Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Bush drops in, nets $1.7M

He says he loves it here, and no wonder

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDIAN HILL - Cincinnati's Republican elite gathered to see President Bush on Tuesday and hand the 43rd president $1.7 million to remember them by.

Bush, Markley
President Bush greets Jerry Markley, founder of Citizens on Patrol in Madisonville, upon his arrival at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.
(Associated Press photo)
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Bush's motorcade
President Bush's motorcade exits the Brent Spence Bridge and enters Fort Washington Way. The motorcade snarled rush-hour traffic as interstates, on- ramps, bridges and underpasses were shut down.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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[IMAGE] Protesters waited for the president's motorcade at the Montgomery Road overpass at Interstate 71, but the motorcade left I-71 before reaching them.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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Bush attended a late-afternoon fund-raiser at the Indian Hill estate of Carl Lindner III, son of Reds owner Carl Lindner, one of the most generous campaign contributors in the country.

It was Bush's second fund-raising stop of the day. Earlier, he raised $3.5 million at a luncheon in Chicago.

The one-day total of $5.2 million ties a fund-raising achievement he set in California in June, according to Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

Bush has raised an estimated $50 million in the past three months.

In Indian Hill, guests paid $2,000 each to sample an open bar and fancy appetizers such as artichoke truffles from Elegant Fare catering under shelter of a giant party tent. They were entertained by Encore, a choir from Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.

Guests in business attire didn't get to peek inside the Lindners' 16-room, 9,250-square-foot home or even have a chair to sit in during Bush's speech.

The president spoke for a half hour on topics ranging from the AIDS crisis in Africa to his "No Child Left Behind'' initiative, in addition to Iraq and the economy. The event was closed to the press.

"The president gave a great speech, and the people of Hamilton County proved their commitment to him and desire to see him re-elected for another four years," said Chip Gerhardt, vice chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party.

Bush is doing a great job, said Nancy Heffner Donovan, another attendee and owner of Ames Travel Agency downtown.

"Since our economy took a hit after Sept. 11, small business people like myself are starting to feel it come back."

Bush has his weaknesses, but he knows how to compensate for them, said Andrew DeWitt, son of longtime Bush associate Bill DeWitt.

"Fundamentally, I think the president is a guy who is a good delegator," he said. "He's smart enough to know, 'Hey, I don't know the Middle East as much as these experts.'"

Bush has many ties to Cincinnati. Businessman Mercer Reynolds is the president's chief fund-raiser and former ambassador to Switzerland.

"One of the great things he said was, 'This town may love me, but I love Cincinnati,'" Gerhardt said.

Even lawyer Stanley Chesley - frequent host to fund-raisers for Democrat Bill Clinton - ponied up $2,000 to attend the Bush fund-raiser.

"It shocks everybody in town," he said.

"I'm still a very strong Democrat, proud of being a Democrat. ... But I respect where he's at with respect to Israel."

It was fun attending a presidential fund-raiser without having to organize it, Chesley said.

"They had great food, but I liked my food better," he joked.

Others who oppose Bush on issues ranging from Iraq to the environment didn't even get a glimpse of the president's motorcade.

About 100 protesters held signs at the Montgomery Road overpass on Interstate 71, but Bush's route didn't take him past them. Still, thousands of drivers passed - some honking in support of the protesters, some waving a finger in disagreement.

"$87 billion could buy a lot of windmills and energy independence," said a sign held by war opponent Joan Friedland of Pleasant Ridge.

"There are no weapons of mass destruction. We knew there were no weapons of mass destruction," she said.

"If you (reporters) do your job, people will know that people in the heartland do not universally support this."

Protesters will probably get another chance to criticize Bush: Gerhardt predicts the president will return soon.

"He has lots of friends here."

Reporters Jim Knippenberg and Jim Hannah contributed. E-mail

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