State GOP Heading Towards 2004 Election

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The Republican Party rolled out its leadership team in Nevada on Monday, staking claim to the battleground state and promising to deliver its crucial electoral votes to President Bush in the 2004 election.

Republican heavyweights introduced the Bush-Cheney 2004 Nevada Leadership Team during a news conference at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino, touting the president's commitment to winning the state and vowing their support despite his approval of a controversial nuclear waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval will chair the team. Gov. Kenny Guinn, U.S. Sen. John Ensign and Reps. Jim Gibbons and Jon Porter will all serve as honorary co-chairs.

Team members said they'll help build a network of grassroots support, raise money and target the heavy number of Hispanic voters in southern Nevada that could prove critical to the president's re-election efforts. Sandoval was the first Hispanic to elected to a statewide office in Nevada.

"We are here to make sure that our state will be part of Bush country," Sandoval said. "Nevada will be a battleground. Organizing early is crucial."

Guinn said Bush fiscal policies will ensure that Nevada will go Republican in 2004. The state went to Bush in 2000, following a campaign promise by Bush to ensure "sound science" prevailed in any decision he made on a nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain.

After his election, Bush approved the Yucca Mountain project, prompting Democrats to criticize him for breaking his promises regarding the project.

Sandoval said he was committed to defeating the Yucca Mountain project in the courts, and his support for Bush had not changed that position.

Regarding the seeming flip-flop by Bush on the high-level waste dump, Guinn said he had asked Bush to take a different position. But when it comes to the first-term president's re-election bid, "we are looking at the totality of the man," Guinn said.

"His tax cuts are putting money into the economy," Guinn said. "We delivered the four electoral votes last time. We will produce those four electoral votes for the next president of the United States: George W. Bush."

Ken Mehlman, the president's national campaign manager, said President Bush would visit Nevada in the future. He declined to say when the president might come.

"I think you will see the president in this state," Mehlman said.

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