Magazine article Insight on the News

Genesis of a Shocker

Magazine article Insight on the News

Genesis of a Shocker

Article excerpt

She's smart. Bob Dole's surprise announcement that he is to resign from the Senate this month has shaken up the presidential race and transformed the Kansan's faltering bid for the White House into a born-again candidacy. And who was behind the idea? Not just Bob Dole. The adviser he trusts most -- his wife, Elizabeth -- was a key influence behind a tactical demarche that had the normally quick-response Clinton White House paralyzed for several hours.

The president's aides could not decide whether Dole's resignation decision was a sign of desperation -- the last gamble of a failing candidate -- or an inspiration that will free the Republican to put everything he has into challenging Clinton. The president's men were not the only ones taken aback by the normally cautious Dole's uncharacteristic blockbuster. Fellow Republican senators had no idea that Dole would make the move.

Inspiration or desperation? There is a high-risk factor in Dole's move, as Wisconsin's GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson acknowledged when he remarked: "He's rolling the dice."

With hindsight, part of the decision was inevitable. The timing wasn't -- nor was the extent of Dole's Senate withdrawal. Few advisers doubted that sometime this summer the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee would limit his Senate duties. But outside his tight "inner circle" of half a dozen -- it includes his wife, Campaign Manager Scott Reed and senior aides Sheila Burke and Dan Stanley -- few guessed or knew that Dole would burn his bridges. The decision was, in essence, made during Easter break -- when the Doles were vacationing in Florida -- although more thought was put into it during the subsequent fortnight, say aides. The legislative difficulties Dole faced in the Senate after Easter -- concerning the Democrats' minimum-wage proposals, Social Security and Republican immigration curbs -- merely served to reinforce the need for escape. …

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