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  •   GOP Lawmakers Join Effort to Draft Bush

    By Terry M. Neal
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, February 11, 1999; Page A6

    Several dozen current and former members of Congress have signed on to an effort to encourage Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) to run for president, saying he has the best combination of organization, principle and ability to attract a broad spectrum of voters.

    About 50 have signed a letter being circulated by former representative Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-N.Y.), who retired last year. Another 15 have committed, Solomon said. The goal is to get as many as 160 House members and senators signed on.

    "I wanted to make sure that we were going to have a Republican nominee for president who was going to be able to win and who shares my views," said Solomon, a conservative who served for 10 terms and was chairman of the Rules Committee.

    The effort underscores the pragmatic concerns of Republicans around the country, eager to get behind the most viable candidate early. Solomon said he and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who at the time was in the House, organized a similar effort on behalf of Ronald Reagan in the late 1970s.

    Bush, who was reelected in a landslide last year, has said he would not announce a decision until spring, after the state legislature adjourns. But spokeswoman Karen Hughes said yesterday that Bush was "honored that fellow Republican elected officials from diverse parts of the country have recognized that he is a principled conservative who has the ability to erase the gender gap and attract record numbers of minority voters."

    Delegations of state lawmakers from Iowa, New Jersey and California have traveled to Texas in recent weeks to encourage Bush to run.

    Bush, who has adopted the term "compassionate conservatism" as a motto, has an 87 percent approval rating, according to a Dallas Morning News poll. Other potential GOP presidential candidates – most notably former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander and former Vice President Dan Quayle – have criticized Bush's use of the term. But Solomon and others who signed the letter said they liked the term and the Reaganesque image it projected.

    Tuesday night, Solomon organized a Capitol Hill meeting for potential Bush supporters and 75 people showed up. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) was put in charge of rounding up members of Congress to sign the letter. Former representative Guy Molinari (R-N.Y.), who served as former President George Bush's state chairman in 1988, will help recruit former members.

    Sessions noted that those who have signed come from all regions and are ideologically diverse, with moderates such as Reps. Jim Leach (Iowa) and Marge Roukema (N.J.), and conservatives such as himself and Rep. Bill McCollum (Fla.) on board. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), Solomon's successor as Rules Committee chairman, also is urging Bush to run. "He has a persona and track record that people view as positive and across the board," Sessions said of Bush.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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