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CAMPAIGN '96

Dole, Kemp Trail Leads to Land of Lincoln

Campaign: In Illinois, GOP team greets crowds at fair, Great Emancipator's tomb. State is critical to their success in November.

August 18, 1996|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Taking his campaign to a crucial Midwest battleground, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole on Saturday told a crowd at the Illinois State Fair that America "deserves to do better" than maintain what he called an anemic economic growth rate, stagnant wages and high taxes under the Clinton administration.

Joined by his running mate, Jack Kemp, Dole described himself as a friend of agriculture and repeated his call for an across-the-board 15% cut in income tax rates, a 50% reduction in the capital gains tax rate and an overhaul of the nation's tax code.

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Fresh from the GOP convention in San Diego, Dole and Kemp addressed more than 1,000 people crammed into a sweltering livestock building at the state fairgrounds here. Despite the sauna-like conditions, Dole and Kemp appeared exuberant as they were enthusiastically cheered by the crowd.

A poll for Newsweek magazine reported that Dole has moved into a statistical tie with President Clinton. The survey conducted as the Republican National Convention closed found that the GOP nominee trails Clinton by only 2 percentage points--within the margin of error.

If the election were held today, Clinton would lead with 44% of the vote, Dole would receive 42% and the candidate nominated by Ross Perot's Reform Party would receive 3%, according to the poll.

A poll Newsweek conducted the previous week had Dole trailing Clinton by 20 percentage points.

Newsweek said 933 registered voters were interviewed by Princeton Survey Research Associates for the latest poll--465 of them on Thursday night, the day Dole gave his speech accepting the GOP nomination. The remaining 468 were interviewed Friday night. The overall margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Asked about the results, Dole said: "Polls are polls. I want to be winning on Nov. 5. That's the poll I'm worried about. Obviously we are encouraged. We had a good convention. We all did a pretty good job."

The strategic importance of Illinois, with its 22 electoral votes, is lost on no one, most of all the GOP. As Gov. Jim Edgar noted, "No Republican has ever been elected president of the United States without carrying" the state. Clinton carried the state in 1992 with 49% of the vote. Then-President Bush had 34% and Perot had 17%.

Edgar called Kemp "a perfect running mate to Bob Dole," hailing the former pro football quarterback's "unlimited enthusiasm and energy."

For his part, Kemp heaped praise on Dole, saying that "I'm a wimp compared to Bob Dole" when it comes to energy on the campaign trail. He also called Dole "the very first lion of the next century," just as Ronald Reagan was "the last lion of the 20th century."

Kemp also said the campaign will be about "economic renewal," "a renewal of our culture," and "a return to the type of leadership to the White House on which you can be proud."

Dole was unusually combative, noting at one point: "The president says the era of big government is over. It will be over for him on Nov. 5!"

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He also said he would work, as president, to fight crime and reduce drug use, reform education, strengthen the military, promote American agriculture, "preserve and strengthen" Medicare and "revise the entire tax code."

"It's time for some plain talk to lead America into the next century," he said.

On the way to the airport, Dole and Kemp made an impromptu stop at the tomb of President Lincoln. They both rubbed the nose of a bronze bust of Lincoln for good luck.

Cheering bystanders immediately asked Dole to sign $5 bills bearing Lincoln's picture. Dole signed one saying, "Who gave me that five spot? It's now worth $7."

Dole and Kemp are scheduled to attend a rally today in Buffalo, N.Y., where Kemp played football and later was elected to Congress.

Times wire services contributed to this story.

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