Bush campaigns for sixth time this year in Minnesota

Bryce Haugen

In the wake of the second presidential debate, President George W. Bush returned to the campaign trail Saturday, rallying the party faithful in Chanhassen, Minn.

At the event, Bush laid out campaign promises and repeatedly attacked his Democratic opponent. Bush’s trip marked his sixth to the state this year and his largest Minnesota crowd yet at approximately 17,500, the Minnesota Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman said.

The president cited Saturday’s presidential elections in Afghanistan and the capture of Saddam Hussein as examples of his administration’s successes. He then ridiculed Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry as being too liberal and too inconsistent for the presidency.

“I have a very different philosophy,” Bush said. “I’m a compassionate conservative.”

The crowd intermittently cheered “four more years,” “flip-flop,” and, when Bush prompted it, “he can run, but he can’t hide.”

But it made the most noise when Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq.

“Do I trust the word of a madman (Hussein) and forget the lessons of September the 11th ,or do I protect our country?” he said. “Given that choice, I will defend America every time.”

Sporting full Bush gear, including numerous pins and a straw hat featuring a picture of the president, 70-year-old Ceil Neidermire proudly promoted the incumbent.

“He’s the greatest president we’ve ever had,” the Osceola, Wis., resident said.

Supporter Kiel Hochett said he is doing his part to secure a Bush victory, although he won’t turn 18 until late October. The Chaska, Minn., resident said he and his friends are covertly supporting Bush by planting urinal cakes in their school’s bathrooms that bear Kerry’s image and read, “flush the flipper.”

Laura Gatz, a Dassel-Cokato High School senior taking classes at the University, said she thinks U.S. college students should support Bush.

“He’s the only candidate who stands for what I personally believe in,” she said.

But not everyone there said they wanted to see Bush re-elected.

Maija Sulerud, a 25-year-old home health-care provider, said she doesn’t understand why people in her hometown seem to favor Bush.

“I’m very surprised, because I think a lot of families are concerned about a conservative, compassionate agenda, and Bush is neither of those,” she said.

Sulerud was among an estimated 200 protestors who gathered approximately a mile from the event. After Bush’s visit, the group exchanged terse and sometimes profane words with the president’s supporters.

“Four more weeks,” the protestors said, standing in a field of Kerry-Edwards signs.

“Four more years,” said passers-by, holding Bush-Cheney signs.

Bush is to blame for the intense divisiveness of this election cycle, University alumnus Gary Devaan said.

“In spite of the opportunity he had after 9-11, he’s been unable to unite this country,” he said, shaking his head.

“We love you too,” said Devaan, 46, after a passing motorist shouted an obscenity.