BEDFORD, N.H. -- Elizabeth Dole endorsed George W. Bush today for the Republican presidential nomination, invoking Ronald Reagan and asserting that the Texas governor would restore trust in the White House.
Dole, whose own campaign floundered in October due to lack of money, told a cheering crowd of about 350 people at a restaurant that the GOP should rally to ''another Western governor'' in Bush, just as the party did in 1980 for Reagan, the former California chief executive.
Bush, she said, would be ''just as bold at challenging the status quo. Just as resolved to restore pride in our institutions. Just as determined to be himself.''
''In a word, he would innovate, not regulate,'' Dole added. ''That's my kind of conservative.''
Although she did not mention President Clinton's impeachment drama of last year, Dole said that ''trust is the coin of the realm'' in a democracy and added: ''Lately, that trust has been tarnished.''
Bush, asked about the possibility of choosing her as the GOP vice presidential candidate, Bush said, ''First things first. It's important to have a strong woman like Elizabeth Dole standing by my side to help me win the primaries and the caucuses.''
Dole, too, declined to be drawn into vice presidential speculation: ''The governor has got to win the nomination and when he does the party is very fortunate to have a large number of very talented leaders with great experience from which he can choose.''
The endorsement by Dole was aimed at strengthening ties with female voters. That group traditionally has been a source of Democratic strength but has shown warmth toward Bush in polls.
''One of the things that Mrs. Dole worked hard to do was to recruit new faces and new voices to the Republican Party, and that's exactly what I'm attempting to do myself,'' Bush said in speaking of the former Red Cross president and two-time Cabinet member.
Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said the support of women in general and Dole in particular would show that the Republican Party no longer has a so-called gender gap.
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