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Bush plans first overnighter in Salt Lake City
American Legion convention: Rice is expected to join him
By Thomas Burr
The Salt Lake Tribune

President Bush
Plans to fly into Utah on Aug. 30 and spend the night here. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)
WASHINGTON - President Bush plans to stay overnight in Salt Lake City later this month, make a visit to LDS Church leaders and raise some cash for Sen. Orrin Hatch, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned.
   While the president's schedule is not yet solid and may change, Bush currently plans to fly into Utah on Aug. 30 and stay overnight before a speech to a convention of American Legion members the next day.
   After speaking to the convention, the president is expected to visit with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then headline a fundraiser for Hatch, who is seeking a sixth term in the Senate this year. Bush also will be joined on the trip by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
   The White House, which traditionally doesn't discuss travel plans more than a week ahead of events, declined to confirm details of the trip, but sources familiar with the visit say the president will be making
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       "It's a great honor for the president to spend the night in the city," said Kirk Jowers, executive director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. "It's rare for Utah to get the president to do more than a fly in and out. And it's time for the president to spend some time in the state where he was and remains the most popular."
       While Bush may be slumping in the polls in many states and nationally - the latest Gallup poll shows him at 38 percent approval nationwide - the president can still count a majority of Utahns as supportive of his job performance. A recent Tribune poll found 59 percent of registered Utah voters rate the president's job performance excellent or good, and a SurveyUSA poll sponsored by KSL News in July put Utah as the president's most supportive state.
       In his third presidential trip to Utah, Bush will be the keynote speaker to thousands of veterans at the Salt Palace Convention Center, which is hosting a seven-day convention for the American Legion. Legion spokeswoman Ramona Joyce would not confirm Bush's trip but said the organization looks forward to Bush accepting its invitation to speak.
        If Bush accepts, Legion spokeswoman Joyce says it's still unclear which day he will speak.
       The planned meeting with LDS Church leaders will be the first in Salt Lake City since Bush sat down with President Gordon B. Hinckley in 2002. A spokesman for the LDS Church said he had no information on an upcoming meeting.
       Bush's trip elicited cheers from Utah Republicans, who are pleased to get a visit by the Commander in Chief.
        "We love the fact that the president is coming to Utah," said State Republican Party Chairman Joe Cannon, who was unaware of the details of Bush's trip. "This is hugely friendly territory for him. The more time he spends here, the better for us and the better for him."
       Taking some time in the reddest state in the union "could restore the president's spirit," Cannon says, "except the speed bump of Rocky."
       Cannon is referring to Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who will be one of the featured speakers at a rally planned for Aug. 30 to protest the president's visit. Anderson was a key voice at an anti-Bush administration rally last August when the president came to town for a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.
       Salt Lake City activist Diana Lee Hirschi, who will be among those protesting the president, said Bush is "definitely welcome in the state" and that she didn't think any of the protesters mind the president coming to Utah. "It's a very good opportunity to get the message out that we are not happy about the war in Iraq and not happy about many other policies of the administration," Hirschi said. "George Bush - I think he is well-respected by many citizens of the state, but there is growing discontent the longer the war goes on. The more it becomes a civil war, the more Utahns are losing confidence in his ability."
       As for the campaign fundraiser, many GOP candidates attempted to get Bush to stump for them, but Hatch was the victor.
       Despite an already bulging campaign war chest, Hatch is looking to pull in thousands at a luncheon at a hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.
       The $500-a-head event would add to a campaign account that last reported $2.5 million on hand. Democratic challenger Pete Ashdown is running a low-budget campaign.
       The fact Hatch snagged Bush for the fundraiser caused some other Republicans in the state to grumble behind the scenes that other GOP candidates in the state could use the money more, especially 2nd Congressional District candidate LaVar Christensen, who is looking to topple three-term Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson.
       One top state Republican described fellow party members as being "jealous" of Hatch.
       Bush has yet to spend the night in the state since taking office, but President Clinton vacationed in Park City for several days in 1999 to celebrate his daughter Chelsea's 19th birthday.

    © Copyright 2006, The Salt Lake Tribune.
    All material found on Utah Online is copyrighted The Salt Lake Tribune and associated news services. No material may be reproduced or reused without explicit permission from The Salt Lake Tribune.

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