Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'96: Clinton vs. Dole? Iowa Spurs Change in Dole's Strategy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'96: Clinton vs. Dole? Iowa Spurs Change in Dole's Strategy

Article excerpt

SENATE MAJORITY Leader Bob Dole has the endorsements, the money, the mantle of front-runner and the air of inevitability that have virtually cinched the Republican presidential nomination for him next year.

Or have they?

A $25-per-vote straw poll in Ames, Iowa, two weeks ago, while of dubious validity, left Dole in an embarrassing tie with Texas Sen. Phil Gramm. That has fueled questions among organizers about whether the Kansas senator has the energy and ideological intensity to seize the nomination that seems almost within his grasp.

"Without question it broke the momentum they had," said Eddie Mahe, a senior Republican consultant who isn't working for any candidate. "But whether it was simply a bump in the road or evidence of a really major rut is something we don't know yet."

Actually, the Iowa party fund-raiser was more a test of transportation systems than voter sentiment; almost all the candidates brought in out-of-state supporters by car, bus and plane. But it gave Gramm bragging rights and bolstered his credentials as the conservative alternative to Dole, and it has increased pressure on Dole to demonstrate that he can command tub-thumping support among the conservatives who dominate Republican primaries.

In response, Dole has shaken up his Iowa organization and scheduled two major speeches this week to drive home his conservative credentials. In a speech to the American Legion in Indianapolis Monday, he is expected to endorse making English the nation's official language and to reject multiculturalism in the teaching of American history. On Tuesday, in a speech to the Chicago Economic Club, aides said he would propose a flatter, simplified tax code.

Dole also has returned a $1,000 contribution his campaign had solicited from Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay and lesbian party members.

But in fact the 72-year-old senator from Kansas has always been a mainstream conservative legislator, wary of some of his own party's more passionate ideologues. His advisers say that's a strength in the general election where he'll offer maturity and stability in a race against President Bill Clinton, but a weakness in the Republican primaries. …

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