WATERFORD, Mich. - President Bush staked out his political turf in Michigan yesterday, making his 14th trip to what polls show is another Midwestern toss-up state in the race for the White House.
While Democrat John Kerry and his newly minted running mate, John Edwards, launched their campaign to unseat Mr. Bush with an appearance 180 miles around Lake Erie in Cleveland, Mr. Bush met privately here with well-heeled supporters paying $25,000 to hear him outline his plans for re-election.
Michigan slipped from then candidate Bush's grasp four years ago, and the stakes in the neighboring states of Ohio and Michigan are very high.
No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.
Meanwhile, an analysis of polls in key states shows Mr. Kerry desperately needs Michigan to become the 44th President of the United States.
Mr. Bush turned quite a profit for his party yesterday. He raised $2.5 million in campaign cash for the Republican National Committee during his visit here, which came after a luncheon appearance in North Carolina in which he raised $2.35 million for the RNC.
President Bush interrupted a fund-raising trip here to meet with Michigan judicial nominees he has sent to the U.S. Senate for confirmation, but whose trips to the federal bench have been stalled by Senate Democrats.
Six Michigan state judges have been nominated by Mr. Bush. Of those, four have been nominated for seats on the fed-
eral Appeals Court bench, while two have been nominated to federal District Court seats.
"I met with the six members, the six nominees because I wanted to assure them I was not going to abandon their nominations no matter what the politics is like in the U.S. Senate. I want to thank them for their patience. It is not easy to be nominated, and then to have your nomination held up for political purposes," Mr. Bush told reporters at the Oakland County International Airport here.
Michigan nominees "have waited far too long," Mr. Bush said. "The time for giving these men and women a fair hearing is now. They deserve an up-or-down vote."
"I am calling on the senators from this state, and the minority of senators who are refusing to move my nominees along, to be fair, and just give them a vote," the President urged.
Michigan's two senators - Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow - both oppose the confirmation of the judges, in part, they said, because Republicans had blocked President Clinton's nominees in the 1990s.
Yesterday, Senators Levin and Stabenow issued a letter to the White House suggesting the establishment of a bipartisan commission to address the Michigan vacancies.
The Michigan nominees include state Judge David McKeague, a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; state Judge Susan Bieke Neilson, a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, and state Judge Henry Saad, a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. All three were nominated in November, 2001.
Also meeting the President were state Judge Richard Griffin, nominated in June, 2002, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; state Judge Thomas Ludington, nominated in September, 2002, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and state Judge Daniel Ryan, nominated in April, 2003, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
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