Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, the Democrats' vice presidential nominee, is telling Westerners exactly want they want to hear.

State rights? He's all for them.Less government red tape? No question about it.

A balanced federal budget? High time.

Bentsen's comments to 7,000 state legislators and staff, including more than two dozen from Utah, Thursday at the 14th Annual National Conference of State Legislatures, received a rousing response.

"He said all the right things Utahns wanted to hear," said House Majority Whip Olene Walker, R-Salt Lake. "He supports states rights and he's willing to work closer with states to solve problems."

Walker and other Republicans were not particularly impressed with Bentsen's eloquence or charisma, but they did say his pro-Western stance on such issues as the death penalty, gun control and a balanced federal budget will make Bentsen a popular candidate in Utah, regardless of his politics.

Utah Democrats were more enthusiastic, saying Bentsen is the perfect candidate to lure Westerners back into the Democratic fold.

"He's fiscally conservative, he's not flamboyant, and he sees the issues from a Western perspective," said House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price. "I think he will really appeal to Utahns.

Bentsen, D-Texas, used the NSCL forum to deliver all the right catch-phrases that would appeal to state lawmakers, from promising to battle drug abuse to protecting the rights of states.

Meanwhile, presidential nominee Michael Dukakis moved into the Midwest Friday to test other Democratic themes. Touting his promise of "good jobs at good wages," the Massachusetts governor toured auto facilities in Flint, Mich., and in Stutevante, Wis. He also spent some time stressing the party unity theme with supporters of his former rival, Jesse Jackson.

Bentsen promised legislators that a Dukakis-Bentsen administration would not be "imperial and overbearing," and that Dukakis, as a governor, understood that problem and he, as a Texan, understood the West.

"If there is one lesson we have learned in recent years, it is that the federal government can't solve all of the (nation's) problems," said Bentsen.