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The Jaundice Eye

To Win, Bob Dole Just Has to Follow 'The Rules'

November 03, 1996|Patricia Marx | Patricia Marx, a screenwriter, is the author of the children's book, "Now I Will Never Leave the Dinner Table" (Harper/Collins),

NEW YORK — You are behind in the polls, Bob Dole, but don't despair. You can still become president of the United States if you follow a few of the simple tips featured in the bestseller, "The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right." You may think this book is only a dating guide, but you would be wrong. The authors claim the dos and don'ts offered in their book prescribe a way to behave in every relationship. And so, Bob Dole, heed the following, and you may yet win the hearts of America.

Rule #1: Don't Initiate Phone Calls

You'll never get the media on your side by attacking, or even soliciting. In fact, don't return phone calls, especially when you are called for an interview. Calling a reporter suggests neediness; he'll think you feel empty and insecure. Change your phone number to an unlisted one so that he must track you down. When you finally do hook up, be mysterious. Don't stay on the phone talking about what Bob Dole believes. Journalists hear that kind of serious stuff all day. If a reporter asks how you plan to implement the 15% tax cut, say coyly, "Oh, I'd rather not talk about that." If you are asked about your plans for Medicare and Medicaid, don't be heavy. Instead, cross your legs, laugh and ask, "Which is which, again?"

Rule #2: Don't Accept an Endorsement for Tuesday After Thursday

It is quite common for governors, unions and newspapers to declare backing for a candidate a couple of days before the election. And it's equally common for

candidates to accept such last-minute offers. However, this is not a Rules Endorsement. Of course, you may be saying to yourself, "But I want to win the election. Who cares when I get the support?" Uh-unh. What matters is the message you should be sending--that you are not "always available."

Rule #3: Never Make the First Move

Ross Perot would have been on your team if you had let him come to you. Instead, you sought him out and he rejected you. So now what does a Rules Candidate do? Your natural reaction may be to play sad love songs, not wash your hair and swear you'll never meet anyone as perfect again (or at least as rich). Come on! Put on a smile and a nice polo shirt. Remember: There are a lot of potential partners out there, including Ralph Nader.

Rule #4: When Politicians Are Upset It Means They Love You

Sure, the freshman GOP congressman say they're angry at you for your crumpling campaign. Sure, they claim they want to disassociate from anything that has to do with you--even the use of the elephant as their party symbol. But you know the truth: Their rage masks hurt and their hurt proves they have soft feelings for you. The more upset they seem, the more they are coming around to your side. Congratulations!

Rule #5: Be Fun

Don't tell sarcastic jokes, sound cynical and depressed or talk about cloture motions. This was fine behavior when you were Senate majority leader, but now you're a Rules Candidate. Act as if you were born happy. Don't talk about the war. It's a downer. Appear busy with activities unrelated to the campaign. Whatever you do, don't anxiously stay up 96 hours waiting for Election Day. Take a vacation to Bermuda. Not being in the country and missing the vote will send a signal to everyone that you are not desperate.

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