Leaders of the Arizona Republican Party sent a ringing message Friday that they are united in their desire for the re-election of President Bush in 2004.
The clearest signal may have come with the announcement that Sen. John McCain, who challenged Bush for the GOP nomination in 2000, will help lead the effort.
Members from every party faction appeared at the state headquarters in Phoenix for the formal launch of the Arizona campaign for Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.
The event came a day after nine Democratic candidates vying for their party's nomination held a nationally televised debate in downtown Phoenix.
McCain and Sen. Jon Kyl will be co-chairmen for the Bush campaign in Arizona.
Both Arizona senators said Bush is providing strong leadership in the war against terrorism and in reducing tax burdens for the average American.
Four years ago, Arizona Republicans were divided as Bush and McCain were in a heated clash heading into the presidential primary season. Then Gov. Jane Hull, a Republican, supported Bush instead of Arizona's senior senator.
McCain and Bush reconciled after Bush became the nominee and McCain campaigned beside him.
McCain said Friday GOP unity is critical in 2004.
"I would caution all of our Republican friends that we cannot take this election for granted," McCain said. "We're going to work very hard in order to prevail and to carry Arizona for the Bush-Cheney team."
Kyl likened Bush to one of the GOP's most popular icons.
"He is guided by an inner strength that's hard to describe," Kyl said. "He exudes that confidence and that leadership which is really based upon his heart as well as anybody I've seen do that since Ronald Reagan. I think it's because he is very much at peace with himself personally in his beliefs."
Every Republican in Arizona's congressional delegation will be part of the campaign's steering committee, along with former Vice President Dan Quayle of Paradise Valley, Secretary of State Jan Brewer, state Senate President Ken Bennett of Prescott, and state House Speaker Jake Flake of Snowflake. State Treasurer Dave Petersen of Mesa also joined the group.
Jaime Molera, former state superintendent of public instruction, will head the Maricopa County campaign committee. Former state Rep. Laura Knaperek of Tempe, whose columns appear in the Tribune, will lead the effort in the East Valley.