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Republican leaders can best serve the GOP by backing vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle, not by calling for his removal from the party's ticket, Sen. Orrin Hatch said Wednesday.

Hatch's comments came on the heels of remarks by Rep. Howard C. Nielson, R-Utah, that Quayle be dropped from the ticket because he is hurting George Bush's chance of being elected president. Nielson has since said his comments, which he made to the Deseret News editorial board and which appeared in Tuesday's Deseret News, were misinterpreted.Hatch, who has worked closely with Quayle on the Senate Labor Committee, stands by the vice presidential nominee. He called Quayle an intelligent and effective legislator.

"We were joint partners in bringing forth the Job Training Partnership Act," he said. "I know him well. I believe he's a man of great integrity. At least everything I know about him would back . . . that up."

Hatch said Nielson is entitled to his opinion but that GOP members should respect Bush's choice and Quayle's qualifications.

"Many feel that someone with more experience and more national reputation would have been a better partner. But that's neither here nor there. He's the person chosen by George Bush," Hatch said.

"I think it's shown that George Bush is willing to go to younger people. I think it speaks to a whole generation of young people and that this Republican Party is looking to youth and new ideas. And in the end, I think it's going to work out all right."

Hatch said he favored Bob Dole as the Republican vice presidential nominee, but he believes Quayle will do a good job.

"He's certainly competent, and if he can withstand the next two weeks of severe testing, which is what our system provides for, Dan Quayle could very easily turn out to be a wonderful candidate running with George Bush."

Hatch decried the criticism Quayle has faced for joining the Indiana National Guard in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War. In a television interview broadcast Tuesday night, Nielson referred to the Guard as "second rate."

"I think it's fair game to raise the National Guard issue, although I think it's a ridiculous issue because it's an insult to everybody who ever served in the National Guard," Hatch said. "It is patriotic to serve in the National Guard, and any National Guard unit can be called up and sent overseas at any time. So that's ridiculous. And I think it's insulting."

Regarding attacks on Quayle's character and rumors regarding alleged malfeasance, Hatch said, "I suppose it's fair game in presidential politics, but sometimes some of the media stoop to new lows that really are irritating. Once he's (Quayle) answered the questions, I think they ought to lay off and . . . go to the issues.

"I think it's basically presidential politics. They're tough . . . and there's no question the Democrats would love to ruin the Bush candidacy. The best opportunity they have to do that, I think everybody would agree, is to destroy Dan Quayle. And if they can do it, they're going to do it."