GOP Faithful Stunned by Nunn: Dole-Democrat Ticket Discussed

By Hallow, Ralph Z. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 6, 1996 | Go to article overview
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GOP Faithful Stunned by Nunn: Dole-Democrat Ticket Discussed


Hallow, Ralph Z., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Republicans expressed consternation yesterday over reports that the head of Sen. Bob Dole's vice presidential search committee wants Sen. Sam Nunn, Georgia Democrat, to be the Kansas Republican's running mate.

Robert Ellsworth, a former GOP congressman from Mr. Dole's home state and one of his closest friends, did not respond to questions from The Washington Times about his preference for Mr. Nunn.

But other Republicans, noting that their party holds 31 of 50 governorships and 53 Senate seats, were eager to get their views on the record.

"My God, Republicans have an eminent farm team of our own to be [vice] president and don't need anyone outside the party," said Alec Poitevint, a Republican National Committee member from Georgia. "I don't think Sam Nunn is going to be on any Republican list. He is not viable."

"It is kind of interesting in a political-science sense, but practically speaking, it's dumb," GOP campaign consultant Eddie Mahe said.

Some Republicans found the possible selection of Mr. Nunn intriguing.

"It would be an interesting choice," Florida GOP Chairman Tom Slade said. "Dole's task is for his nominee to be instantly perceived as presidential, and Sam Nunn fits that criterion. I don't think he would run as a Democrat if Dole picked him. He would run as a Republican."

First elected to the Senate in 1972, Mr. Nunn headed the Armed Services Committee when the Democrats controlled the Senate.

He has said he will not seek re-election this year after tangling with President Clinton on a number of issues, including homosexuals in the military. But he has sided with the president on many other issues.

Mr. Nunn could not be reached for comment. But in March, Mr. Dole told The Times that he might name a Democrat to his Cabinet. "People like Sam Nunn would come to mind," the Senate majority leader said.

The Dole campaign, which shows signs of gaining in the polls, is looking for bold moves, and several Republicans report that Mr. Ellsworth told confidants the selection of Mr. Nunn could be one of those moves.

"Nunn has always been perceived as a conservative Democrat uncomfortably wrapped in the liberal Democratic Congress," Mr. Slade said. "If Sam Nunn were 21 and in his hometown in Georgia, he would register as a Republican today."

Other Republicans, however, thought the idea of a Democrat on their ticket was a joke at best, or perhaps just plain stupid.

"That Nunn idea belongs in the comic section of your newspaper," Georgia GOP Chairman Rusty Paul said. "Senator Nunn is at the end of a distinguished senatorial career. Let's extinguish it as it should be, with dignified retirement.

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