Bob Dole visited with Ronald Reagan, one of the most popular and durable presidents in U.S. history, on Wednesday in search of inspiration and advice for his own presidential aspirations.
Dole, the presumptive Republican nominee, spent 30 minutes with the former two-term president in a private meeting at Reagan’s office on the Avenue of the Stars, briefing him on the campaign after posing for pictures. It was the first time the two Republican leaders had met since May 1993.
“It reminded me of the great things that President Reagan had done for America: tax cuts, a good economy, a strong defense. It was sort of a shot in the arm,” Dole said of the reunion with his former foe in the 1980 GOP presidential primaries.
“We talked about a lot of things. We talked about the campaign,” said Dole, who is scheduled to walk in the west-Chicago suburb of Wheaton’s Fourth of July parade with Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar today.
Reagan, 85, has been in virtual seclusion since he announced in 1994 that he is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. The 40th president, elected in 1980 and 1984, Reagan led a Republican conservative revolution that attracted independents and conservative Democrats as well as mainstream Republicans.
“It’s good to see you,” Reagan reportedly said upon greeting Dole in the former president’s 34th-floor office in a downtown office building. Reagan mostly listened while the Doles talked about the campaign, and he showed Dole around his office suite, pointing out pictures that included one of his mother.
“He’s doing well,” Nancy Reagan said of her husband. Others who sat in on the session said Reagan appeared alert and fit. Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, gave Nancy Reagan a chocolate birthday cake and gave the Reagans a copy of “Unlimited Partners,” the Doles’ joint career autobiography.
The Dole camp downplayed the political significance of the candidate’s meeting with Reagan.
“This is the kind of thing he should do when he’s in the state,” national senior adviser Ken Khachigian said beforehand, pointing out that Dole served as Senate majority leader during Reagan’s first term as president and that Dole occasionally talks with two other former Republican presidents, Gerald Ford and George Bush.
“There’s no question that Ronald Reagan is still enormously respected by Republicans all over California, especially conservatives, but that kind of political consideration is not the purpose of their meeting,” Khachigian said.
If elected, Dole would be 73 when he takes office, supplanting Reagan in the record book for becoming the oldest president.
Afterwards, the Doles sat side-by-side at a book-signing to promote the reissue of “Unlimited Partners,” the story of their 20-year marriage and dual Washington careers. The book was first released in 1988 to coincide with his last presidential campaign.
Dole spent just 24 hours in California on his sixth campaign trip to the Golden State this year, but he managed to pick up $3 million at fund- raisers in San Francisco and Los Angeles while promising many more visits to the battleground state before the Nov. 5 election.
California’s mother lode of 54 Electoral College votes is a key to amassing the 270 votes needed to win the White House, Dole told the fundraising audiences, and Republicans shouldn’t doubt his commitment to carrying the state. The Republican National Convention will be held in San Diego in August.