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Bush raises millions in California

Burlingame (California), June 28 (Reuters): US President George W. Bush opened what he hopes will be a battle for California in 2004 yesterday by raising millions of dollars in campaign cash while skirting the state’s dire fiscal crisis.

Bush’s well-oiled fund-raising machine drew in $1.6 million at a luncheon of grilled marinated chicken for 800 people.

A later event in Los Angeles was expected to draw in $3.6 million for a one-day tally of $5.2 million.

That total will put him well on the way to at least $27 million by the end of June, surpassing the combined total of all his Democratic rivals, according to their last fund-raising reports.

“You are laying the foundation for a nationwide victory next year,” Bush told party loyalists in this San Francisco suburb. “I’m getting ready. I’m loosening up.”

Bush’s high hopes of doing well in California in the 2000 election were crushed by Democrat Al Gore. California, whose 54 electoral votes are the most of any state, has gone Democratic in the last three presidential elections.

Bush was making only his seventh visit to the state since taking office. His predecessor Bill Clinton was a far more frequent visitor.

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