Barbara Bush may have only known Genevieve Atwood for 36 minutes, but she likes what she sees and Wednesday asked all 2nd District citizens to vote for her.

Atwood, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Wayne Owens, was "delighted, filled with joy" at having the first lady attend a rally for her in downtown Salt Lake City.Atwood was so excited about the event, that in introducing Mrs. Bush, she said, "I support George Bush right down to my underwear." A comment that led Mrs. Bush to retort: "I can't wait to tell George about that."

Upwards of a thousand people jammed a Marriott Hotel ballroom to hear a short speech by Mrs. Bush. The event was not a fund-raiser for Atwood; the tickets were free. The Atwood campaign picked up its share of the cost of the Bush visit, the rest being paid by the federal government since Mrs. Bush also addressed a conference on adult literacy. (See story on A1.)

"I enjoy campaigning for qualified candidates like Genevieve Atwood. But I want to be honest with you, I'm here because George Bush asked me to come," said Mrs. Bush, who was interrupted often by applause. "I hope you know that I don't do everything George asks me to. But George really needs Genevieve back in Congress to support the balanced budget amendment and his strong anti-crime package."

Atwood was exuberant in her praise of Mrs. Bush. They hugged each other several times and both appeared to enjoy their encounter. In a press conference after their appearance, Atwood was asked if Mrs. Bush's short visit will really help her candidacy. "Yes, it shows a bonding. The Democrats say they are the party for women. But the Republicans are, because we're the party of the family, of jobs and of education."

Mrs. Bush's appearance shows the women of Utah that Republicans care about those issues, because she symbolizes that caring, said Atwood. "Oh my," said Mrs. Bush, a bit embarrassed by the praise. "Well, it's true," said Atwood.

Asked if there will be war in the Persian Gulf, Mrs. Bush said no. "At least I hope, like you, not." But she said Bush is very concerned with the crisis. "He won't stop worrying until every one of our American military personnel, man and woman, is safely home."

She's not worried about the downturn in the polls of the president's popularity, which took a nose dive after he supported higher income taxes to reduce the federal deficit. "We've been around (in public life) a long time. We know what goes up, goes down and what is down goes up. There was no way he could hold that high rating. Let me tell you something, the president does what he thinks is best for the country."

Perhaps alluding to recent criticism of Bush, Mrs. Bush told the rally "I'm the luckiest woman in the world, I love George Bush, I love his kids."

She broke the crowd up in laughter several times, making fun of her own dress and relating a story of how Bush, traveling in Minnesota, awakened her with a 5 a.m. telephone call asking about first dog Millie's male pup - "How's the big guy." "I told him: `George, I don't know how your dog is.' "

Even though Mrs. Bush only met Atwood just before their rally, Mrs. Bush said she's read about Atwood's accomplishments and admires her education (Atwood attended the well-known private colleges of Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan, earning a master's degree at the latter in geology).

"I'm pleased to campaign for fine, decent, qualified people like Genevieve," said Mrs. Bush. Asked if she knew that Atwood opposes the compromise budget that Bush and Congress just adopted - a package Owens supported - Mrs. Bush said, "Goodness, do you know how many people I've campaigned for who opposed that? Our party embraces a wide spectrum of beliefs - that doesn't bother me at all."