PHILADELPHIA -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush swept confidently into town Wednesday to collect the Republican presidential nomination, telling a cheering crowd, "If all goes well, you're looking at the next president of the United States."
Bush came to town with strong praise for running mate Dick Cheney, under Democratic attack for his conservative voting record in Congress. "He's a solid man, he's an honorable man," Bush said at a welcoming rally by Hispanic supporters. "I'm proud to call him friend and you will be proud to call him Mr. Vice President."
The convention's high spirits were dampened by news that former President Ford had suffered a small stroke and was hospitalized here. "I think he'll do very well," said Dr. Robert Schwartzman at Hahnemann University Medical Center. Ford was at the convention Tuesday night for a salute to former GOP presidents.
On the third night of the convention, Bush formally wins the GOP nomination when the roll call of states hits the mark of 1,034 delegates. Cheney's home state of Wyoming should put Bush over the top.
Cheney will accept the vice presidential nomination Wednesday night with a speech talking about tax reform, schools, military strength "and bringing honesty and honor to the White House," said Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett.
Cheney also will take aim at Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. "He will draw some contrast with the vice president and focus on how the governor has had a bipartisan approach in Texas," Bartlett said.
Nancy Reagan made a brief morning appearance before the California delegation and borrowed the phrase that her husband made famous. "One last word, one last time, make it one more for the Gipper," she implored before returning home to former President Reagan, suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Bush's first big campaign event in the convention city was at a Hispanic rally on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a setting made famous in the movie "Rocky." Joined by Sen. John McCain, Bush underscored the Republicans' determination to reach out to minorities and independents.
He spoke in Spanish and English, noting that he was introduced by "the man in my family, el hombre, George P." Bush -- his nephew.
Bush's arrival ceremony earlier was steeped in patriotism. He flew into a small airport northeast of Philadelphia, greeted by several hundred invited supporters and a band wearing colonial costumes. Other characters were dressed to look like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Betsy Ross. The governor did his part by ringing a replica of the Liberty Bell.
The governor and his wife Laura stepped together off his campaign plane, newly emblazoned with the names "BUSH-CHENEY" in large letters on the gleaming white fuselage decorated with red and blue stripes.
Bush's midmorning arrival quickened the pace of the 37th Republican National Convention.
The Texas governor flew into town after a six-day road trip and a long-distance war of words with President Clinton. Breaking his self-imposed ban on attacking his opponents by name, Bush snapped, "This nation does not want four more years of Clinton-Gore." He was angry over Clinton's charge that Bush was asking people to vote for him because he was governor and his "daddy was president."
Bush's sharp words were a brief departure from a disciplined convention script emphasizing moderation, tolerance and inclusion -- a contrast to the biting edge of years past that turned off voters. Former President Bush got into the fray Wednesday, recalling Democratic taunts in years past and saying that his son "can dish it out if he has to. But he's going to stay on message."
Several miles from the convention hall, masked demonstrators clashed violently with police Tuesday night, slashing the tires of police vehicles, dumping orange paint on some and spray-painting obscenities on others. They took to downtown streets to protest the death penalty, police brutality and other causes. "Capitalist pigs go home," some shouted at delegates.
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