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Wednesday, March 3, 1999 Published at 00:05 GMT

World: Americas

Bush takes first step

The race for the White House in 2000 moved up a gear as Republican front-runner George W Bush took a step towards his first bid for the presidency.

The move followed an announcement by Republican veteran Pat Buchanan that he was launching his third presidential challenge.

Paul Reynolds: George W Bush calls himself a compassionate conservative
Texas Governor Bush, who is the eldest son of former President George Bush, has announced he is forming a presidential exploratory committee to raise money and measure support for his first White House bid.

Mr Bush, 52, has not formally declared he is entering the presidential race but is considered a front-runner for the Republican nomination.

BBC Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds says there has been little doubt for months that Mr Bush will run for president and he is likely to declare when the Texas legislature ends its session late May.

[ image:  ]
In the meantime, forming an exploratory committee is a way of focusing Republican minds on the Bush candidacy.

"I've been encouraged by the outpouring of support from fellow elected officials and party leaders all across our country many of whom, as you know, have made the trip to Austin, Texas," Mr Bush said on Tuesday.

He was speaking from the governor's mansion in the state capital Austin on Texas Independence Day.

He was elected by a large majority to a second term as governor of Texas in November in one of the strongest Republican performances in the mid-term elections.

Buchanan outspoken as ever

Pat Buchanan, who stood for the Republican nomination in 1992 and 1996, launched his campaign with a typically fierce attack on the Clinton White House.

[ image: Hoping for third time lucky]
Hoping for third time lucky
"This temple of our civilisation has been desecrated, used to shake down corporate executives, to lie with abandon to the American people, a place to exploit women," he said.

Having failed twice before, correspondents say Mr Buchanan's campaign looks even less hopeful this time round.

That did not stop him preaching his brand of conservatism, with anti-abortion and pro-protection at the top of the list, to an enthusiastic band of 300 supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the first primaries will be held.

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