Bush’s Re-election Campaign Returns to Minnesota

by Emily Kaiser

The crowd of approximately 15,000 erupted into a deafening cheer as the lights went down in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center Wednesday night.

As music blared from the loudspeakers, President George W. Bush rode onto the arena floor in his campaign bus.

The rally marked Bush’s fourth visit to Minnesota this year and his third visit in the last five weeks. Minnesota is considered one of the battleground states in the upcoming election.

Outside the arena, a few hundred people protested against Bush’s policies and presidency, holding signs with slogans such as “regime change begins at home.”

Prior to Bush’s appearance at the event, several speakers addressed the indoor crowd. Among the speakers was St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly.

Kelly, a Democrat, made waves Aug. 1 when he publicly endorsed Bush for president.

“In times of war, in times of economic challenge, in times of uncertainty and global strife, there are no Democrats or Republicans who stand up for what’s right and just – only Americans,” Kelly said. “And I can tell you that our American President George W. Bush is best prepared to lead this nation forward in the years to come.”

Eric Hoplin, national chairman of the College Republicans, spoke to the crowd calling his generation the “9/11 generation.”

“Sept. 11 is the most significant event that has happened in our generation,” Hoplin said. “Young Americans connected with their country and their government in a real and personal way.”

Bush spoke about many issues, spanning from the war in Iraq, Sept. 11, health care and social security.

Although the older generations can feel secure about their social security benefits, Bush said, younger workers are concerned about the “fiscal sovereignty of social security.”

Bush also said citizens should have the option of having their own personal savings account for their social security, Bush said.

He said it is important to give young people the chance to get a good start in the workforce with a high school diploma.

“In four more years, our rising generations will have the confidence and skills necessary to realize the great promise of America,” Bush said.

Young people and college students had a noticeable presence at the rally, said Jake Grassel, chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans.

Grassel helped get college volunteers to work at the event. The College Republicans recruited approximately 75 volunteers, 15 of whom are University students, he said.

“We’ve really been working hard over the past four years to bring young people into the party,” Grassel said.

Grassel said he saw the crowd’s support as Bush walked onstage to greet Kelly.

“The entire event was summed up in the fact that he had to stand on stage with Randy Kelly for five minutes before they would even let Kelly introduce him,” Grassel said.

Tony Richter, vice-chairman of the College Republicans at the University, attended the Bush rally in Duluth, Minn., July 13 and said he saw much more enthusiasm at this event.

“There was a definite youth presence there, and I think that’s what the party is becoming,” said Richter, a marketing sophomore at the University and a volunteer at the event. “The youth in the party are definitely going to do great things this fall.”

With 76 days left to influence voters before the election, an estimated 300 protesters took advantage of the event and lined Seventh Street along the Xcel Energy Center, said a spokeswoman for the Kerry/Edward Campaign.

As Bush supporters filed out of the arena proudly holding up their Bush 2004 signs, protesters chanted “Re-Defeat Bush” and engaged event-goers in heated political discussions.

Carrie Walling, a political science graduate student at the University, attended the rally against Bush.

“I’m here because I am really disgusted with where this country is going and because of Bush’s disregard for human rights,” Walling said.

She said the protest, like other anti-Bush protests, felt more optimistic and welcoming of other parties and viewpoints.

“You have the Kerry supporters, but you also have the traditional peace activists and Green Party supporters as well,” she said.