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Dole Drops Out of Campaign : Says He Wishes Bush Well in November Vote

March 29, 1988|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Dole, his White House hopes crushed by George Bush, ended his Republican presidential bid today, saying, "You come to trust your instincts to tell you it's over."

"I'm a fighter and I don't like to lose," Dole said, surrounded by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter, Robin, and scores of House and Senate colleagues. "I make no apology for that. It's simply the way I am."

But he said he also was an optimist. "I've been beaten before and no doubt will again. But I've never been defeated and never will be."

Dole, who has been without a primary win for more than a month, tipped his hat to Bush.

"The one thing you learn how to do pretty well in our business is to count. You come to trust your instincts to tell you it's over. In my heart I know that time is now. I congratulate George Bush and wish him well in November," the Kansas senator said.

Bitterness Absent

Dole's remarks showed none of the bitterness that has characterized his attitude toward Bush in the past. When Dole took the microphone, he cracked, "We're not going to say anything mean about anybody."

Dole, whose last weeks as a candidate were marked by bruising defeats at the hands of Bush, said he looked forward to his return to the Senate and his duties as minority leader.

"I return to the Senate as the Republican leader eager to engage the issues that confront America . . . doing all I can for our nominee, George Bush," he said.

Dole recalled his official entry to the race on Nov. 9:

"Nearly five months ago I went home to Russell, Kansas, to declare my candidacy for the highest office the American people can bestow. It was only natural I should begin my campaign on Main Street, among those from whom I have always drawn my strength and my identity. Today here I am, bloodied and unbowed, as the poet said."

Made a Fast Start

Dole had made a fast start out of the gate, overwhelming Bush in the Iowa caucuses Feb. 8. But he stumbled a week later in New Hampshire's primary. Dole rebounded with a pair of wins in South Dakota and Minnesota on Feb. 23, but Bush stunned the Republican field with a 16-state primary sweep on Super Tuesday.

Dole never recovered. Though he made an effort to revive his campaign in Illinois, he lost heavily there and appeared to be merely going through the motions after that.

Dole campaigned last week in Wisconsin, where he hoped to make a comeback, but by week's end, he told a Washington audience that he thought Bush's nomination was "a foregone conclusion."

Second Campaign

Dole's second campaign for the Republican presidential nomination--the first, in 1980, also ended in failure--was flawed all along by internal disarray. He was not inclined to delegate authority. He finally brought on former Labor Secretary Bill Brock last November to run the campaign. But it may have been too late.

Bush's well-oiled campaign machinery had been in place for years, and Dole struggled uphill against a rival who ran as a front-runner and made few mistakes.

Dole tried repeatedly to stir voters into resentment against Bush and his upper-class background, but Dole's argument that he was "one of us" apparently won over only Iowans. Dole also lashed out often at Bush for his still-murky role in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages affair, but Republican primary voters didn't buy it.

Bush also had a trump card that he played often--Ronald Reagan. Bush ran successfully as the loyal vice president to one of the most popular Presidents in modern history.

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