Republican officials say “Utah is Bush Country”

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    By LINDSAY PALMER

    Utah’s top elected Republican officials formally announced their support for Gov. George W. Bush’s presidential bid in a press conference Friday.

    Gov. Michael Leavitt announced that he will serve as chair of the Utah Bush for President Organization. U.S. Senators Orrin G. Hatch and Robert F. Bennett were named as honorary co-chairs.

    Leavitt said when Utah, Colorado and Wyoming unite for the first Western States Presidential Primary on March 10, the voice of the West will be heard.

    “Everyone will know that Utah is Bush Country,” Leavitt said.

    Hatch said that he gained a deeper respect for Bush during his own presidential campaign, which ended on Jan. 26. He said Bush has proven that he is an excellent governor, he appeals to many different people and he is the best GOP candidate for president.

    “It’s going to take George Bush to beat Al Gore,” Hatch said. “A lot of Republicans, I think, don’t understand what a formidable opponent Gore is.”

    Hatch also made reference to his infamous quip during the GOP debates, when he said that he should run as Bush’s vice presidential candidate to gain the necessary experience to be president.

    “I probably shouldn’t have said that,” Hatch admitted. “But I believe that quip helped George Bush in his campaign. Experience is a very good thing, but sometimes it is a bad thing if it flies in the face of what the country needs. Gore and Bradley have experience, but what they want is not good for Utah or the West.”

    Former Senator Jake Garn agreed with Hatch’s assessment and said there needs to be a change.

    “What better qualification to be President of the U.S. than to not be part of the Washington establishment?” Garn said.

    Sen. Bennett accused the media of ignoring Bush’s nation-wide campaign and focusing more on the personal stories of other candidates.

    “This is not a beauty contest,” Bennett said. “We are deciding who is going to be our standard-bearer.”

    Bennett said he knows all of the GOP candidates, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes and Bush.

    “I have no hesitation, based on my personal experience with each of (the candidates), to say that George W. Bush would be the best President of the United States,” Bennett said.

    Bennett said Bush is an excellent leader and has an ability to unify people. He said he believes that McCain is the opposite.

    “It’s time we don’t have a polarizing figure, which we’ve had for the past eight years,” Bennett said.

    Of the Republican U.S. senators who have worked alongside McCain, 40 of them are endorsing Bush, Bennett said.

    Hatch said while the polls say Bush and McCain are dead-even in South Carolina, he believes Bush will win there, as well as in Delaware on Feb. 8.

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