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Bush to Keep Running Mate Secret to Create Interest

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Times Political Writer

History will look back and recall that a choice finally came to pass. George Bush will, before much longer, finally pick his 1988 running mate. And as soon as he does, history is sure to forget all about the long buildup that has charged the air around Bush with anticipation.

For now, though, anticipation means voter interest--and Bush is playing it for all he can.

On Wednesday, the campaign heightened interest with two teasing announcements.

About his decision on a running mate, Bush said: “I’d like to make up my mind before I board the plane for New Orleans,” site of the Republican National Convention. Bush is scheduled to fly to the convention on its second day, Aug. 16.

But wait. Do not expect Bush to divulge his choice just then.

Campaign manager Lee Atwater, speaking separately to reporters, said Bush wanted to hold back public disclosure of a running mate until the morning of the convention’s last day, Aug. 18.

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The reason? A desire to keep the voters curious and tuned in to the final event of the convention, Bush’s Thursday night acceptance speech.

“It’s important to us that the people stay tuned. If they have interest, they are going to be staying tuned,” said Jim Lake, public relations consultant to Bush.

The campaign said the recently concluded Democratic convention in Atlanta suffered a drop-off of 5 million television viewers by the final night, when nominee Michael S. Dukakis delivered his acceptance speech. At that convention, there was virtually no suspense about anything the final two days.

Meanwhile, Bush campaign officials continued to flesh out their roster of convention speakers.

The nomination speech, a highly coveted assignment because of its visibility before millions of television viewers, will be delivered by Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, a Democrat-turned-Republican.

Gramm’s selection is further evidence of the importance being placed on Texas in this election. Dukakis picked his running mate from Texas, the state’s other senator, Lloyd Bentsen. The Democratic convention keynoter was Ann Richards, Texas state treasurer. Bush, for his part, claims Houston as his adopted home.

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A seconding speech for Bush’s nomination will be delivered by Rep. Robert K. Dornan of Garden Grove, Calif., the conservative firebrand who was the first member of Congress to endorse Bush, way back on Dec. 17, 1985.

Other prime-time speakers announced Wednesday include Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas and his wife, former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole. She also will co-chair the convention. Still others were former President Gerald R. Ford, Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and religious broadcaster Pat Robertson. Sen. Dole, Kemp and Robertson are three men Bush beat for the nomination.

No time slots or designated roles were announced for the speakers.

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