Image: Bush  Sullivan  Epler
President Bush discusses his economic agenda with local businessmen and employees at Dynamic Metal Treating International in Canton, Mich., Monday. To his right are the company's president Loren Epler and sales manager Rick Sullivan.
updated 12/1/2003 7:16:34 AM ET 2003-12-01T12:16:34

President Bush banked a fresh $1.75 million for his re-election campaign on Monday and celebrated signs of revival in the manufacturing sector, the hardest-hit segment of the job market.

BUSH CAME to the heart of American manufacturing and, in two speeches, hailed new data pointing to an upturn in manufacturing. The Institute for Supply Management reported Monday that its manufacturing index soared last month to the strongest reading since 1983.

“It shows the manufacturing sector of the American economy is coming back pretty strong,” Bush said at Dynamic Metal Treating Inc. in Canton, Mich. Bush spoke in a White House-orchestrated “conversation” with workers from that company and from another area small business, Spectrum Automotive.

The White House manufactured a backdrop especially for the occasion, meant to project Bush’s empathy for industry. Each of three banners were emblazoned with the words “strengthening America’s economy” over fabric with the image of steel beams and rivets.

The White House favors such settings, which suggest spontaneity but which always reinforce Bush’s message. Those who shared Bush’s stage agreed with Bush, as usual, that his tax cuts were responsible for economic growth.

One said the cuts had helped Dynamic Metal Treating afford a new furnace.

“Not only did tax relief help hardworking Americans, it also helped the economy,” Bush said.

BOLSTERING ELECTION WAR CHEST

Bush’s 11-hour day on the road was devoted mostly to increasing the size of his re-election war chest. Monday’s dual fund-raisers pushed it to at least $110 million just for next year’s Republican primary, where he faces no opponent.

The first fund-raiser, in Dearborn, brought in $750,000. A second event, in Whippany, N.J., was worth another $1 million.

Bush planned to return to fund raising on Tuesday in Pittsburgh and Friday in Baltimore. Like Monday’s Michigan event, the Baltimore appearance is paired with an official event on the economy.

With holiday receptions and other obligations keeping Bush in Washington more than usual, there is only one other money-raising event on his schedule through year’s end — on Dec. 11 in McLean, Va., just across the Potomac River from the capital.

Touchy about criticism he devotes too much time to re-election fund raising, Bush urged donors here to spread the word that “right now the president is working hard to make sure America is secure and strong and prosperous and free.”

Bush repeatedly took credit for signs of recovery, attributing them mostly to his tax cuts.

“With all these actions, we are laying the foundation for greater prosperity and more jobs across America so every single citizen has a chance to realize the American dream,” he told 500 donors. “Our economy is strong and it is getting stronger.”

Bush lost Michigan in 2000 and has aggressively courted it ever since. Monday marked his 12th visit to the state.

Hanging over him was a decision about whether to repeal tariffs on imported steel — a decision that could have wide-ranging implications for his re-election campaign.

Steel consumers, like Ford Motor Co., which Bush passed in his motorcade, want a repeal of the tariffs, and many Bush advisers have advised him to do so.

But Michigan is also home to some steel makers, who say the tariffs have helped protect them from unfair competition.

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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