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Bush Praises Powell on Race Issue

August 1, 2000

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ George W. Bush said Tuesday that Gen. Colin Powell’s call for Republicans to be more racially inclusive was part of an ``extraordinary speech″ that correctly identified a GOP weakness.

``Our party must do a better job of recruiting minorities, and he said specifically African Americans,″ Bush told reporters aboard his campaign plane.

Powell addressed the GOP convention in Philadelphia on Monday and took Republicans to task for missing no opportunity to ``roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action.″

Speaking of the GOP’s relationship with black voters, Bush noted that Powell ``said there’s a deep distrust in the African American community and he’s right and we’ve got a lot of work to do.″

The Texas governor, who is popular with Hispanics in his home state, is making an appeal to minority voters more typically aligned with Democrats.

The opening night of the GOP convention in Philadelphia featured a number of black speakers and performers, a reminder of Bush’s claim to be ``a different kind of Republican″ than those who regularly bash affirmative action programs and back legislation some consider anti-immigrant.

But the crowds he draws to his campaign rallies are largely made up of white Republicans. Bush said the final verdict on his cross-race appeal will come on Nov. 7.

``We’ll see on Election Day, won’t we?″ he said. ``I can’t remember the makeup of the crowds in Texas but I got nearly 50 percent of the Hispanic vote. I’m not so sure the nature of the crowd necessarily is going to reflect the nature of the vote.″

On Monday, after a marathon evening in which he watched wife Laura’s convention speech on television, addressed the gathering by satellite and welcomed her back to Columbus, Ohio hotel room around 1:15 a.m. this morning to continue his six-state tour prior to the convention.

Bush said he had high hopes for winning West Virginia, one of several battleground states on his preconvention route that the Democrats have won in recent elections, but ``we have a lot of work to do.″

He declared wife Laura’s speech to the convention Monday night ``spectacular.″ She was back with him after a quick flight from the convention city.

Bush arrives in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Watching Laura with a group of honor students while waiting to go on camera himself, Bush grinned proudly as she took the stage. ``She looks great,″ he said. Then, as Laura Bush said she was ``honored to open this convention that will nominate my husband for president of the United States,″ Bush joked, ``I wrote that line for her.″

In his own remarks to the convention Monday night _ by satellite _ Bush recalled his premarital pledge to Laura, the one about her never having to deliver a political speech.

``I know you’re as glad as I am that she didn’t hold me to that promise,″ he told the delegates.

Aides said Bush will deliver more broad-themed, short speeches described as practice runs for the 3,900-word address that he delivers Thursday night to accept the Republican nomination for president.

The Bushes practiced their speeches separately, but in front of about a dozen friends and staff members Sunday night.

``I wanted to see her speech on first delivery,″ Bush said. ``Nor did she help me practice mine.″

Earlier Monday, Bush attended rallies at the University of Dayton, a private Catholic college, and in the Senate atrium of Ohio’s state Capitol in Columbus. In both places, he sounded many of the themes he is expected to raise in his convention speech.

``We’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m ready to do the work,″ he told the Columbus audience. He said Americans were ``sick and tired of the politics of tearing people down.″

Democrats held a competing rally a few blocks away.

Earlier in Dayton, Bush proclaimed, ``Ours is not the politics of personal destruction″ and pledged to wage ``a campaign of hopefulness.″ He also promised to ``keep the peace″ and strengthen America’s military.

As with most recent Bush rallies, only those with invitations were allowed up front. Still, a group of about two dozen people with Gore signs chanted ``Al Gore″ on the edge of the rally.

Bush ignored the group, but Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, turned to them and said, ``The First Amendment is alive and well. We welcome our friends.″

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