Former Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole endorsed George W. Bush on Tuesday for her party's presidential nomination.
Dole asserted that the Texas governor would restore trust to the White House.
The endorsement has increased speculation that if Bush earns the nomination, he'll ask Dole to be his running mate for the Whitehouse.
George W. Bush used to be her main rival, but now Elizabeth Dole is throwing her support behind the Republican Presidential front-runner.
Dole made her surprise announcement in Bedford New Hampshire on Tuesday.
"I am supporting George Bush for president because he has outlined a realistic, achievable plan to cut taxes and to guarantee the future for social security."
SUPER CAPTION: Elizabeth Dole, Republican
Dole, whose own campaign floundered in October due to lack of campaign cash, told a cheering crowd of about 350 people at a restaurant that the G-O-P (Grand Old Party) should rally to "another western governor" in Bush, just as the party did in 1980 for Ronald Reagan, the former California chief executive.
"In a time when civility has all been vanished from the political arena, he stands out as a leader who would much rather bridge our differences than exploit them. Is it any surprise that he, like Ronald Reagan before him, has shown a remarkable ability to attract support from voters who have not often flocked to the G-O-P; two thirds of Texas women, half its Hispanics. Nearly thirty percent of its African American and democrat voters endorsed his re-election. In other words, those who knows him best admire him most."
SUPER CAPTION: Elizabeth Dole
Dole's endorsement was aimed at strengthening ties with female voters - who have traditionally been a source of Democratic strength.
But Bush has an impressive track record.
In his first race for governor, he successfully wooed nearly half the female voters - against a woman, Democratic Govenor Ann Richards.
In his 1998 re-election, he increased that figure to more than 60 percent.
"I'm ready for the contest. I'm ready to fight for every single vote. I am ready for a contest of ideas. I'm ready for a contest of trust. I'm ready to campaigning my heart out in this important state. And, I appreciate you standing by my side."
SUPER CAPTION: George Bush
Bush, who is frequently asked if he might choose Dole as a running mate, called her an articulate and capable woman and also invoked Reagan, whom she served as transportation secretary.
"I'm really pleased such an articulate and capable woman has endorsed my campaign. Elizabeth Dole is a leader in our country, she is a leader in our party. She is admired and respected all across our country and deservedly so. Elizabeth, you've always said that you have been a lieutenant in Ronald Reagan's army. I'm proud to have you General in mine. "
SUPER CAPTION: George Bush
After picking up Dole's endorsement four weeks before the New Hampshire primary, Bush headed to Iowa to campaign for votes in advance of the Jan 24th presidential caucuses there.
Meanwhile, Bush's chief rival for the 2000 G-O-P nomination, Senator John McCain of Arizona, maintained his focus on New Hampshire with a gruelling schedule of town hall meetings.
Recent polls have shown McCain leading Bush in the state, although Bush maintains a sizeable lead in national surveys.