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President Plays To Packed House

President Bush arrived in Stockton this morning to help raise funds for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Simon. The president gave a nearly hour-long talk at the Bush supporter-packed Memorial Civic Auditorium. Simon, however, was not present. The president then attended a luncheon held at an airport hangar in Stockton.

Bush, accompanied by Simon, called the GOP gubernatorial candidate a “breath of fresh air.” Simon was at the head of the receiving line when Bush stepped off Air Force One this morning. He got a handshake and a brief chat before the president moved along. Bush climbed into a limousine and headed to the welcoming rally without Simon.

Karl Rove, the president’s chief political strategist, suggested to reporters on the flight from Oregon that Bush’s time in California have at least as much to do with Bush’s own prospects in 2004 as Simon’s in November.

Bush was asked how a fraud verdict against Simon’s investment firm squares with the president’s tough talk on corporate crime. Bush said Simon assured him he will be vindicated and he plans to take Simon at his word.

Bush is expected to help raise some three (m) million dollars for Simon during his visit to California.

Bush’s visit to Portland yesterday was greeting by boisterous protests, which ended in a clash between police, and demonstrators opposed to the president’s policies on the environment, Iraq and other issues.

Riot police used pepper spray and beat some of the hundreds of protesters with batons. During the President’s speech in Stockton, only one heckler, wearing a shirt that said “No War in Iraq,” was removed from the packed auditorium.