Rep. Christopher Cox on Friday gently urged Gov. Pete Wilson not to run for President and announced his endorsement of Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who was in town for a presidential campaign fund-raiser.
"We need Wilson in the state house to make sure (Democratic Lt. Gov.) Gray Davis, who was Jerry Brown's chief of staff, doesn't take over," said Cox (R-Newport Beach), who indicated that the still officially undecided Wilson already may have waited too long to join the race.
Cox, who was careful to say he is a Wilson supporter and had walked campaign precincts with the governor's wife, said he would be serving as co-chairman of Gramm's California campaign.
Gramm said he intends to campaign hard in California regardless of what Wilson does.
"I'm going to run here and I'm going to run to win," said Gramm, who was buoyed last month when he won 56% of a straw poll taken at the state Republican convention in Sacramento.
At a news conference at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel, Gramm described himself as a successor to former President Ronald Reagan.
"I'm running for President because I want to finish the Reagan revolution," Gramm said. "We are either going to change the way our government does business or we're going to lose the American dream."
Gramm expressed confidence that he could beat Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, who, according to a recent Times Poll, is the leading Republican prospect. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed favored Dole, 9% favored Gramm and 6% favored Wilson.
"I'm going to run all out in every county like I was running for sheriff," Gramm said. "I watched George Bush trying to win the presidency without carrying California (in 1992), and I don't intend to do it that way. We will be spending a lot of time here, building a base of support."
Gramm's appearance came a day after Wilson visited the county to address a group of 600 business leaders.
On Friday, Gramm also dismissed comments made in Washington earlier this week by California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a Democrat, who said he did not think Gramm could beat Wilson in the state.
"You don't expect me to come to California to have Willie Brown tell me about Republican politics?" Gramm said, drawing laughs.
He also took a partisan jab at former Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron, who was the only Democrat in countywide elective office and whose investment strategies led to the collapse of the county's investment pool and subsequent bankruptcy.
"It's dangerous to elect Democrats," Gramm said. "You should never elect one in Orange County."