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ELECTIONS '96

Early Concession Statement Is Dole Camp's Final Blunder

November 06, 1996|MARC LACEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COSTA MESA — It was the final blunder of a star-crossed campaign.

Just before 6:30 p.m. PST, an aide to Bob Dole electronically released a written statement conceding the candidate's defeat to reporters waiting for Dole outside Washington's Watergate Hotel.

"Bob Dole has completed his mission with courage and honor. Even in defeat, he has much to claim in the way of success," declared the statement, which bore the name of Dole's press secretary, Nelson Warfield.

For weeks, campaign staff members had been insisting Dole would not concede before the polls closed in California. In 1980, when then-President Carter conceded just before 7 p.m. PST, angry Democrats insisted the early move cost them close races in the state.

Shortly before the concession statement was broadcast on television, an NBC producer covering Dole's running mate, Jack Kemp, at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel here, passed the news along to Alixe Glen, Kemp's press secretary, who had heard nothing of it.

A surprised Glen quickly telephoned John Buckley, the campaign's communications director. Buckley hit the roof, sources said, and angrily ordered the concession to be withdrawn.

"I've never seen John that angry," one campaign aide said.

Another statement was released soon afterward.

"Due to an error, a statement from the Dole campaign was prematurely released to some news outlets this evening," read the second statement, also attributed to Warfield.

"The fact is Bob Dole has conceded nothing," the new statement declared. "We regret any confusion this error has caused your news organization."

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