Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dole Eschews 'Liberal' Los Angeles, Takes California Battle to Vineyards

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dole Eschews 'Liberal' Los Angeles, Takes California Battle to Vineyards

Article excerpt

Bob Dole returned to California this week with one clear goal: to shake off persistent reports that the presumed Republican nominee has already conceded this state to President Clinton without a fight.

"I'm here to tell you we're going to spend a lot of time in this state," Mr. Dole told a cheering crowd of party faithful in Ontario, east of Los Angeles. "We're going to carry California in November."

Behind the bravado, Dole's campaign staff has crafted a "heartland strategy" for California. He will shun the liberal coastal strongholds of San Francisco and Los Angeles in favor of the inland conservative fortresses of suburban Orange County and the agricultural Central Valley. Dole's prairie values of hard work, small government, fewer taxes, and "Bible belt" traditionalism will ring true there, strategists calculate. Given time to make himself known to California voters, Dole can come back from his 20-point deficit in the polls, they argue.

Conversations with voters in this typical Central Valley town of grape vineyards, fruit trees, and pickup trucks lend evidence that Dole's bedrock conservatism has plenty of support here. But to get those voters out to the polls in November, he first must overcome their continued doubts about his effectiveness, a skepticism compounded by a widespread antipathy to politicians in general.

Dole's dramatic resignation from his longtime Washington perch as the senior senator from Kansas was clearly intended to help soften his association with the much-despised political class. But in this quiet spot deep in California's heartland, the gesture gets a decidedly mixed review.

Mary Lee, a retired school administrator, speaks for many in this community in firmly opposing the reelection of President Clinton. Clinton's support for abortion rights ranks high on her list of reasons for this stance. But this registered Republican is not sure yet if she will vote come this fall.

"I would like to vote Republican, but I'm not convinced Bob Dole could win," she says, standing outside the local K-Mart. "My friends and I wish the Republican Party had a little stronger candidate, somebody with a little bit more charisma."

Others speak in more angry terms about their choices in November. "This year, I can't really see any reason to vote," says Carey, a firefighter who declined to give his full name. "The guy who's got the most money wins. The little guy has no say in government anymore."

This former longtime serviceman has no time for Clinton, whose name alone evokes a grimace of distaste. But he finds Dole, whom he describes as "stuffy" and "stiff," a distant figure. …

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