President Bush in Utah for Republican fundraisers

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Team coveragePresident Bush continued his Republican fundraising push today with a stop in Utah, which is one of four states the president is set to visit during a three-day trip.

Air Force One touched down at Salt Lake International Airport just before 3:00 this afternoon, almost an hour later than scheduled.

At the airport, Bush was greeted by Gov. Jon Huntsman and first lady Mary Kay Huntsman. Former Gov. Mike Leavitt and LDS General Relief Society President Julie Beck were also on hand.

"I got a phone call from the White House, and they asked me if I would like to be part of the greeting committee for the president, and I obviously was excited about that," Beck said.

After the president was greeted by the dignitaries, he walked over and greeted 24-year-old Rick Pehrson. Mr. Bush presented Pehrson with The President's Volunteer Service Award. The award has been handed out about 600 of these since 2002 when the president encouraged all Americans to do more volunteer work in their communities.

"The first thing, he was just kind of joking and said 'hello' as he came in. And then right after that, I just told him that I supported him, and he said that he supported all the volunteer service that I'd participated in. So, it was a fun exchange," Pehrson said.

The president's motorcade then took off to a fundraising event in Salt Lake City's Avenues. He arrived at 3:12 p.m. at the home of Sam and Diane Stewart in the Avenues.

There were about 10 motorcycles, two cars, two limos, six SUVs and a van; all bringing the president to the home and, of course, taking him away to his next event in Deer Valley at Mitt Romney's vacation home.

This first fundraiser was hosted by the Stewarts. According to federal election data, Mr. Stewart is head of Wasatch Advisers. This fundraiser was for the Republican National Committee Victory Reception. They are not only raising money for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, but also the Republican Party as well.

The Federal Election Commission has set limits on how much people can donate. An individual can give up to $2,300 to a presidential campaign, $28,500 to a national party, and then $10,000 to a state, local, party.

At today's fundraiser in the Avenues, President Bush talked about liberty, Iraq and even the recent marriage of his daughter, Jenna.

Those who attended the fundraiser tell us about 300 people were there to hear the President speak. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, along with the Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, were also in attendance.

Those we spoke with said the president seemed relaxed, often joking and willing to take pictures with those who asked. One man says the president even kissed his mother.

"It's hard to describe when you're with him because he's such a warm and welcoming person. And I guess I'm biased because seeing him reach across and kiss my mother was, again, a very special moment," Joe Morton said.

The $500-a-plate luncheon included chicken salad, asparagus soup and rattlesnake pâté sausage.

The Avenues fundraiser was a closed event to the press, but, of course, the White House Press Corp always travels with the president. They were herded down the street to another home and waited for about 45 minutes.

It was a hectic day in the neighborhood, and as far as we can tell, most people were not aware of the president's visit. Some were a little irritated because of the inconvenience. They couldn't park in front of their homes; they couldn't even walk in front of their home.

Following his stop in Salt Lake City, the president returned to the airport and was whisked away in Marine One to attend a fundraiser, this one at former Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's house at Deer Valley.

He is now going to be spending the night in Park City, where people both welcomed him and spoke out against his policies.

One family we met had special connections with the Secret Service and was allowed to watch President Bush's arrival from inside the school. Robin Jennings said, "We got some great footage of George Bush waving at us. It was pretty cool."

Not everyone welcomed President Bush, though. Kids with signs for peace lined the road leaving the school, and a protest at the city park deemed "The Bush Bash Barbecue" drew a couple hundred people. Protester Lynne Baltzan said, "We just want our soldiers to come home. We just want everything to end, and we're ready for something new."

"I think it's important for me to just demonstrate as a citizen the democracy, which facilitates and advocates opposition to be here," another protester told us.

The media were not allowed near the home where he attended a $70,000-per-couple fundraiser. The roads were guarded by the Park City police, who helped out the Secret Service.

Police Chief Lloyd Evans said, "It's a lot of work, but you don't very often get a chance to have the seated president, a sitting president, to come and visit your community. So it has been quite exciting."

The job of the police is not over yet. They will continue assisting the Secret Service tomorrow. President Bush will go to Salt Lake tomorrow to meet with LDS Church officials.

We are told that the schools in the Park city area will be starting an hour later tomorrow. That is because they don't want anything to interfere with the president's motorcade.

Earlier today, President Bush was in Colorado Springs speaking to the Air Force Academy graduating class of 2008. Following his visit to Utah today, he heads to Reno, Nev.


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