Florida GOP Turns out to Hear George W. Bush Presidential Candidate Sticks to His Major Campaign Themes

Article excerpt

ORLANDO - Pointing to Florida as a key state in next year's presidential race, Republican front-runner George W. Bush yesterday tried to win over hundreds of the state's GOP activists.

Bush, the brother of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, was the only presidential candidate to show up for a two-day Republican convention in Orlando. In a sometimes-folksy speech, he focused on the main themes in his campaign: helping children, cutting taxes and restoring honor to the White House.

The Texas governor promised to improve the nation's schools, closing what he calls the "gap of hope" between affluent and poor people.

"Every child will be educated, and no child in America will be left behind," he said.

George W. Bush received a warm reception from a standing-room-only audience in an Orlando hotel ballroom. He has a huge edge over his opponents in Florida, but he said he will have to work hard to win the state, which went for Democrat Bill Clinton in 1996.

"I'm going to do everything he [Jeb Bush] tells me to do -- for the first time in my life," George W. Bush joked during a news conference before the speech.

Party leaders have billed the convention, which was expected to draw as many as 3,000 Republicans, as a kickoff for the 2000 elections. But the event lost some of its excitement when the party canceled a straw poll and all of the presidential candidates, except Bush, declined to attend.

Delegates streamed into the Omni Rosen Hotel yesterday to hear presentations from top state and national GOP leaders such as Lt. …

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