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GOP CHAIRMAN FAINTS WHILE SPEAKING AT EVENT

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Lee Atwater, chairman of the Republican National Committee, fainted while speaking at a fund-raising breakfast Monday and was rushed to a local hospital, a spokeswoman said.

Atwater recovered immediately after he collapsed at the podium, said Leslie Goodman, RNC communications director.Atwater, just back from the West Coast where he accompanied President Bush to several GOP fund-raisers, recently has been on a special liquid diet. Goodman said she did not know if the diet had been a factor in his collapse.

Atwater is a frequent jogger.

One aide said Atwater was using a diet food sold in powder form in grocery and drug stores and designed to be mixed with milk.

The aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said however that Atwater had lost little weight on the diet because he frequently supplemented its milkshake-like regimen with regular high-calorie foods.

Goodman said that Atwater, 39, had not been ill and that his collapse was a "total surprise."

He was being kept at George Washington Hospital for tests.