RUSSELL, Kan. — Senate Republican leader Bob Dole formally opened his presidential bid today, pledging that if elected he will sit down with congressional leaders "as long as it takes" to hammer out a balanced budget plan.
In his announcement speech, Dole took subtle swipes at chief rival Vice President George Bush, extolling the Reagan Administration's record but adding: "It's not something to run on. It's something to build on."
Against the nostalgic backdrop of his hometown of 5,600 in western Kansas, Dole promised a policy of common sense "molded in America's small-town heartland and tempered during a career of public service."
6th GOP Candidate
Dole, the sixth and last major Republican to announce his candidacy, called for tough-minded economic policies, saying the federal deficit "is the single greatest threat to a prosperous and dynamic America."
He said, "I will sit down with congressional leaders during my first weeks in office and we'll stay there as long as it takes, and will not stop until we come up with a renewed commitment to a multi-year plan--a new compact--that ends with a balanced budget in the near future."
Dole insisted that, if elected, "we will tackle the runaway federal budget head-on--without raising tax rates."
"With the single exception of programs to assist vulnerable Americans, no area of federal spending will be off limits," he said.
Dole, the GOP Senate leader for the past three years, hammered at the theme that he's been on the front lines during President Reagan's presidency. And he said, "I offer a record, not a resume," a clear jab at front-runner Bush's lengthy list of past positions.
Dole's three-state announcement tour focused on his Midwestern roots, a region where he faces an early test of his ambitions. He chose to begin his quest in his hometown before thousands of cheering supporters, telling them, "I am overwhelmed."
He was presented with a cigar box that aides said contained more than $100,000 raised for his presidential bid. It was the same cigar box used to raise money for an operation to repair his devastating World War II wounds. Dole ended up losing one kidney and the use of his right arm.
His announcement rounds out the presidential field of six Democrats and six Republicans. Dole, the last to formally announce, joins fellow Republicans Bush, former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV, former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, longtime television evangelist Pat Robertson and New York Rep. Jack Kemp.