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Perot, Lamm share stage at Reform Party events

Richard Lamm asked the Reform Party faithful Saturday to "pass the torch" to him, but members of the political movement saved their most fiery support for party founder Ross Perot.

Perot, taking the state party convention stage after Lamm in their first shared public appearance, promised to "do better" than Republican and Democratic leaders if he were president.

"If you make me your candidate I will dedicate myself as a servant to the American people _ bought, paid for and owned by the American people," Perot promised in seeking the Reform Party presidential nomination.

Perot, who has said for months he no longer coveted the presidency, almost casually announced his candidacy July 10 _ one day after Lamm, a lifelong Democrat and former Colorado governor, said he would run.

On Saturday, Lamm often sounded like a slicker, younger version of Perot as he addressed about 200 convention delegates _ and the simply curious _ who turned out to hear them both speak. Lamm, who earned polite applause, turned out to be only a warm up for Perot.

"I am asking you to pass the torch," Lamm said, after crediting Perot for founding the party and leading it thus far.

Perot, whose third-party bid for the presidency in 1992 galvanized disaffected voters, didn't even mention Lamm.

Instead, the billionaire Texan delivered a speech peppered with his trademark folksy phraseology and color charts. He likened last fall's White House-congressional stalemate over the federal budget to a fist fight between doctors while a heart attack patient waits on a gurney.

"I think we can do better than that. Can we agree on that?" Perot said to loud and enthusiastic applause.

Lamm pressed some of the same themes of fiscal accountability and wholesale renovation of the American political machinery.

"We stand on the shoulders of giants, yet my generation can't even pay its own way," Lamm said. "We put it on our children's credit card."

Party members, who say it's clear Perot leads Lamm for the nomination, said their joint appearance _ without a divisive debate _ demonstrates a civility lacking in the two major political parties.

Perot even gave Lamm a ride in his jet so the pair could easily make both appearances together in Virginia and at Augusta, Maine, where they delivered the same speeches at another state party convention.

At Charlottesville, Perot supporters were everywhere and only a few people wore Lamm stickers in the meeting hall that lacked balloons, confetti and other typical convention decorations.

"I think there is a national consensus among a lot of us that it's time to elevate Perot to emeritus status, to founding status in this party," said Lamm supporter Betsy McBride, of Chesapeake, Va.

Convention delegate Al Picardi of Belle Haven, Va, called Lamm "a nice fellow." "But," he added, "frankly, if Lamm ran I can see it shake up the parties slightly. If Perot runs, I think there's a good chance of getting into the White House."

Party members vote to pick the nominee at two separate conventions: Aug. 11 at Long Beach, Calif., and Aug. 18 at Valley Forge, Pa., where the winner will be announced.