SENATOR ZELL MILLER OF GEORGIA, the nation's most prominent conservative Democrat, said today he will endorse President Bush for re-election in 2004 and campaign for him if Bush wishes him to. Miller said Bush is "the right man at the right time" to govern the country.

The next five years "will determine the kind of world my children and grandchildren will live in," Miller said in an interview. And he wouldn't "trust" any of the nine Democratic presidential candidates with governing during "that crucial period," he said. "This Democrat will vote for President Bush in 2004."

Miller, who is retiring from the Senate next year, has often expressed his admiration for Bush. He was a co-sponsor of the president's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. The two got to know each other in the 1990s when both were governors.

The senator's endorsement is important for several reasons. With Miller on board, Bush will have a head start on forming a Democrats for Bush group in 2004. Such a group would woo crossover votes from conservative or otherwise disgruntled Democrats next year. In 2000, an effort by the Bush campaign to form a Democrats for Bush organization fizzled.

Since he came to the Senate in 2000, Miller has become increasingly critical of Senate Democrats and the national Democratic party. He recently published a new book, "A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat," in which he criticizes the party for being too liberal, too elitist, and subservient to liberal interest groups. In the book, Miller singles out Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean, whom he knew as governor of Vermont, for being shallow.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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