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Powell Making The Rounds Of Businessmen, Politicians

Colin Powell contacted New York cosmetics heir Ronald S. Lauder late Tuesday to discuss his fund-raising prospects as a Republican presidential candidate, part of a round of talks that suggest he is leaning towards running, GOP sources said Wednesday.

Others consulted in the past two days included Jack Kemp and William Bennett, two conservative former GOP cabinet members who have spoken favorably about a Powell candidacy, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified further.

Powell spokesman Bill Smullen said the retired general has made a series of calls as part of his deliberations about entering the GOP race, but declined to name any of those consulted. “As of this day, the 25th of October, Colin Powell has not yet made a decision,” Smullen said.

Powell ended his nationwide book tour last week and has promised a decision in November.

As he ponders a candidacy, many conservatives are mounting a concerted effort to convince Powell to stay on the sidelines, suggesting they will strongly oppose him because of his support for abortion rights, gun control, affirmative action and other policies at odds with their agenda.

Just Tuesday night, for example, the American Conservative Union board adopted a statement that Powell’s views “put him outside the mainstream of the Republican Party and should make him unacceptable to conservatives.”

“I cannot find any reason why any conservative would want to sacrifice the work of decades on the altar of celebrity,” said ACU president David Keene, an ally of Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the GOP presidential front-runner. Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed also said a Powell candidacy would not keep the Republican Party in line with the “Reagan legacy.”

But as Powell considers a run, he appears to be reaching out to Reagan administration alumni and allies in a way that could help him counter such criticism.

Helping him with the consultations is Kenneth Duberstein, who served as White House chief of staff at the end of Reagan’s second term. Duberstein, a close Powell friend, did not return a telephone message Wednesday.

Kemp, during his tenure as a New York congressman, was a close Reagan ally and was the favorite of many economic conservatives for the 1996 GOP nomination. He decided not to run but a longtime Kemp ally, millionaire publisher Steve Forbes, is a candidate for the GOP nomination.