Steve Forbes won the long-sought endorsement of Jack Kemp, a hero of supply-side conservatives, on Wednesday, but Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, the indisputable Republican front-runner, had an even bigger day.
Two of Dole’s challengers for the presidential nomination - former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana - quit the race and endorsed Dole. Their presence in the early contests, voter surveys indicated, had been costing Dole votes.
Dole, who won all eight primaries on Tuesday and the vast majority of the Republican National Convention delegates at stake, is expected to increase his lead as a result of today’s voting in the New York primary.
“Dole is nominated,” declared House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who like other GOP leaders sounded anxious for the senator’s challengers to drop their campaigns.
But Pat Buchanan and Forbes made it clear they will press on to the biggest primary day of the season next Tuesday, no matter what the odds.
Forbes got an unexpected boost from Kemp at a rally in Albany, N.Y. The endorsement was surprising, because Forbes had been seeking the backing of his old friend for months and had been rebuffed as recently as Monday.
Alexander withdrew from the race after a string of poor finishes, including five fifth places on Tuesday. Although he had a moderate record as a governor and Education secretary in the Bush administration, Alexander campaigned as a conservative political outsider.
Speaking to supporters in a Nashville hotel ballroom, Alexander noted that he had spent a year asking, “Is Sen. Dole the man that Republicans want carrying our banner against Bill Clinton and leading us into the new century?” “And what I’ve discovered,” Alexander said, “is that for most Republicans the answer to that is ‘yes.”’.
Lugar’s luck was even worse than Alexander’s in the early caucuses and primaries. Although Lugar is widely respected by his colleagues, the Hoosier failed to develop a compelling campaign.
Lugar said Dole was “the apparent nominee,” and “I look forward to his presidency.”