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Dole Barnstorms State in Marathon Bid for an Upset

Politics: GOP candidate assails Clinton ethics, saying 'this White House is a mess.' He sees tide turning his way and calls on his listeners to get out the vote.

November 04, 1996|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOMA LINDA, Calif. — Giving it his all, but increasingly losing his voice, Bob Dole brought his marathon 96-hour campaign windup to California on Sunday, barnstorming for most of the day from San Diego to Sacramento as he pleaded one last time with the state's voters to help him pull off an upset in Tuesday's election.

"In 1992, Bill Clinton wanted to be president in the worst way, and now he is," Dole told a few thousand supporters at a Republican picnic here. "I'll never compromise ethics or violate the public trust," he said, adding that "this White House is a mess."

The day began in the wee hours of the morning in Las Vegas. "I'll give you an inside tip--bet on Bob Dole," he told several hundred supporters in a ballroom of the MGM Grand Hotel as he stood on a stage designed to look like a boxing ring.

From there, it was on to San Diego and four hours of rest at the Hyatt Regency in La Jolla for himself, his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Robin, before church and a visit to the county Republican headquarters. There the candidate briefly joined 21 volunteers in making telephone calls to get out the vote.

"All across America, polls are moving our way," Dole told supporters gathered outside--an assertion based more on optimism than evidence.

"A lot of people are moving our way," Dole added, joking that he had telephoned four people and "seven already had voted."

"We're going to work around the clock, around the clock, around the clock!"

The crowd was warm but small, something Dole often has encountered in his final campaign effort--a few hundred GOP faithful gathered in a parking lot. The size seemed emblematic of a campaign that many Americans appear to have tuned out--a lack of interest that has repeatedly frustrated the Republican challenger.

Dole appeared rested, but spoke for barely five minutes and dispensed with even a truncated version of his stump speech. Instead, he simply urged his placard-waving listeners to get out the vote.

"With your support and dedication in the next two days, it's going to happen," he insisted.

By day's end, he was speaking even less, hoarsely telling supporters in West Covina that unlike President Clinton "I will tell the truth . . . if my voice holds up."

Earlier, at the United Methodist Church in San Diego's Mission Valley, Dole listened as the Rev. Mark Trotter suggested in his sermon that if the Republican's proposed 15% cut in income tax rates became law, parishioners might give more to the church.

"Thanks for the plug for the tax cut," Dole told him.

From San Diego, Dole flew here for the party barbecue, where he was joined by running mate Jack Kemp, Gov. Pete Wilson and other leading Republicans. As the late-afternoon sun began to cast long shadows across a grassy field, Dole and Kemp appealed for help.

Kemp ripped into Clinton for charging repeatedly that Dole would gut Medicare, declaring--in words reminiscent of those Dole once used against George Bush--that "the president of the United States should stop lying about Bob Dole's agenda."

Dole, his voice increasingly hoarse, spoke for just over 10 minutes, saying he believes that voters in the end will choose him because "character does count."

He also reiterated his support for Proposition 209, the controversial initiative on the California ballot that would end state affirmative action programs that are based on race, gender or ethnicity. Race-based affirmative action programs are "wrong," he declared.

The trip marked the second straight weekend in which Dole has campaigned in California in an all-out bid for the state's 54 electoral votes.

Whether Dole's spirited campaign here will bolster voter support Tuesday remains to be seen, but party officials claimed it energized them and campaign workers.

"He is really sending a clear message: This is a fight to the end, and there's no giving up," said Leslie Goodman, Wilson's deputy chief of staff.

As a part of this weekend's get-out-the-vote drive, she said, Wilson joined about 150 volunteers from Northern California as they flew to the Southland on Saturday for a weekend of intense phone-bank and door-knocking efforts.

"It's important to keep the momentum going," said John Herrington, state GOP chairman. "There's a tremendous amount of undecided voters out there, and this weekend they will be making up their minds."

Actually, polls indicate there are very few undecided voters left--at least in the presidential race. But the number of undecided voters is traditionally far higher in congressional and local races, and Republican officials are concerned about the impact a loss at the top of the ticket might have there.

In particular, Republican officials say they worry that if Eastern and Midwestern states put Clinton over the top in the presidential race before California polls close, some Republican voters might just give up and go home.

"We're telling people not to worry about the results in the East," Herrington said.

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