ONTARIO, Calif. — An energized Sen. Bob Dole brought his presidential campaign to Southern California on Tuesday and, in a lectern-thumping speech, vowed to do "whatever it takes" to win the state's 54 electoral votes, capture the White House and "change America for the better."
"We're here to tell you we're going to spend a lot of time in this state and we're going to carry California," Dole told several hundred boisterous Republicans, many of whom had waited for him for several hours in a sweltering ballroom at the Red Lion Inn here.
Expressing confidence despite polls that have shown him far behind President Clinton not only in California but nationwide, Dole said: "We're going to turn this country around."
The Kansas Republican warned that even as Clinton increasingly has embraced conservative themes and issues, he is not to be trusted.
"If he were reelected, he would be right back with more health care reform and tax increases and more regulation and all the things you don't want," Dole said.
His visit to California was his first since clinching the GOP presidential nomination two months ago, and it was intended to reassure party faithful that, unlike then-President Bush four years ago, he intends to wage an all-out political battle for the Golden State in November.
Dole's current swing, however, will be barely 24 hours long. His only public appearance upon his arrival late Tuesday afternoon was his speech at the GOP unity rally in Ontario; his remarks were brief, but they were among the most spirited he has given in weeks.
He is due to appear this morning at Perry Park in Redondo Beach before flying to San Diego for a meeting with residents there. Both events are expected to focus on crime issues, which are emerging as a major theme in his bid to defeat Clinton.
Earlier Tuesday, he delivered a major address on crime in Aurora, Colo., just outside of Denver. Among other things, Dole called for a crackdown on child pornographers and a constitutional amendment clarifying the rights of crime victims.
Dole is scheduled to make two other California appearances today, both in Sacramento, before taking his campaign tonight to Illinois and Ohio, traditionally two crucial Midwest battleground states.
Those sharing the rostrum with him in Ontario included state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, whose name has surfaced as one of Dole's potential running mates.
Dole has given no hint about his favorites for the job, but in comments to reporters after his Colorado speech he said he has asked former Nixon administration diplomat Robert Ellsworth, a fellow Kansan, to create a process for selecting and investigating potential candidates.
Dole also said he told Ellsworth, "When the time came, I want to look outside of politics. Let's take a look at the country. Look all over the country. We tend to focus on people in our business."
At his stop in Colorado, Dole sharply escalated his anti-crime rhetoric. He vowed to end child pornography, proposing a three-strikes-and-out sentencing policy for convicted producers and traffickers of such material.
Dole also said that every sexual assault suspect should be tested for the HIV virus, with the results given to the victims. In addition, he vowed to impose drug testing "at every stage of the federal criminal justice system."
His proposed constitutional amendment for crime victims would include a provision that they be kept informed of criminal proceedings and offered an opportunity to testify.
Dole decried the "recent epidemic" of arsons at black churches throughout the South as "a new form of terror." He called such acts "wrong," and "evil" and said that they "have no place" in America.
He proposed greater notification requirements when convicted rapists are released and reenter a community. "It is a shameful, national disgrace that nightfall has become synonymous with fear for so many of America's women," Dole said.
Citing rising crime rates among juveniles, Dole made a pitch for welfare reform.
The current system, Dole added, "treats marriage, work and personal responsibility as irrelevant. It has produced a culture of illegitimacy."
Dole continued: "At the heart of juvenile violence is the breakdown of the family--the nucleus of civilization. Today, more than 30% of our children are born into homes without fathers. In 15 years, under the current rate, the number will exceed 50%. No society that calls itself civilized can sustain this frightening trend."
Dole spoke in a chilly, driving rain in the courtyard of the Aurora Police Department before a sparse, supportive crowd. Dole's speechmaking has been improving of late, but in this instance he raced through his prepared text, stumbling over words a number of times.
Flanked by local officers, he delivered his remarks in front of a black granite wall inscribed with the names of three police officers killed in the line of duty in this Denver suburb.