After getting hammered by anti-abortion forces, Bob Dole’s troops scrambled Tuesday to muzzle pro-choice delegates and head off a bruising floor fight.
A day after Dole’s tolerance language on abortion was scrapped from the platform, his lieutenants put the squeeze on abortion-rights supporters to set their cause aside and put the candidate first, casting it as a matter of loyalty.
However, big-state, pro-choice governors such as William Weld of Massachusetts, Christie Whitman of New Jersey and Pete Wilson of California were threatening to take it to the floor during the convention next week.
The Dole camp fears such a divisive battle could damage the presidential nominee at a time he’s supposed to be basking in a glowing national spotlight.
Dole - said by senior aides in Washington to be angry at being forced to retreat from his own platform position - steered clear of the issue as he addressed the delegates via satellite, saying only, “We’re going to leave that convention united.”
Whitman said a floor fight would hurt Dole, but “If we send a message of intolerance, I don’t think we’re going to put him in a position of winning.”
Pro-choice forces were working on two fronts Tuesday - to get 25 percent of the platform committee’s 107 delegates to write a minority plank that at least puts the tolerance language back in.
They also were searching for the support of the required six states necessary to wage a floor battle next week.