President heads back to Florida to boost brother's re-election campaign

Friday, June 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush is shoring up his brother's re-election war chest, hoping to raise $2.5 million in one event for the Florida GOP.

The Friday dinner at a Universal Studios hotel in Orlando, Fla., was officially for the benefit of the Florida Republican Party.

But with party leaders ready to spend heavily to support Gov. Jeb Bush in November, the president's visit was clearly a family affair, in support of his younger brother's already well-funded, ahead-in-the-polls campaign.

It was the president's fourth visit this year to the state that barely bumped him into the White House after a Supreme Court decision.

Bush's top advisers have acknowledged Florida's political importance. An internal White House computer slide presentation tagged the Florida governorship as one of 15 that Democrats have at least a possibility of taking from the GOP this year. It also identified the state as an area of ``special concern'' for the president's own re-election in 2004.

Janet Reno, attorney general in the Clinton administration, is among the Democrats seeking to unseat Gov. Bush.

The event also was likely to mark a milestone in the president's fund-raising efforts around the country. The expected take from Friday would lift Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney's fund-raising total on behalf of Republican candidates above $100 million for this year alone.

The president also was promoting ``age-appropriate'' workouts by touring a local center for elderly people and even doing a little light exercise with his audience.

The theme, according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer: ``You're never too old to exercise.''

The fitness event is part of a four-day White House campaign to encourage people to work out, eat properly and generally take better care of themselves.

Scheduling the official event also allows the White House to charge taxpayers for half of the trip's costs, saving the Republican Party from having to foot the entire bill.