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Upbeat Dole Keeps E On Texas, Florida Prizes

From a high-profile church service in Dallas to rallies across Florida, Sen. Bob Dole worked Sunday to shore up support in the two biggest prizes of the Super Tuesday round of primaries.

“I’ll promise you one thing, if I’m the nominee I’m going to beat Bill Clinton in November of 1996,” Dole told several hundred enthusiastic supporters in an airport hotel ballroom here.

Later, he stood under a leaky tent in a downpour and told a rally in Melbourne, Fla., “the sun is coming out on Tuesday. And Bob Dole is going to sweep this state.” He also voted strong support for the nation’s space program at the campaign stop near Cape Canaveral.

Meanwhile, Steve Forbes’ campaign signaled for the first time that the millionaire publisher might be willing to bow out if Dole embraces serious tax reforms.

Forbes is looking for “basically, some sort of recognition” of his role in the GOP presidential campaign, an aide to Forbes said.

Closing in on the day that offers the largest bloc of delegates yet, the Senate majority leader was upbeat, and held back from pressing attacks against his two remaining rivals, Forbes and commentator Pat Buchanan.

Up for grabs on Tuesday are 362 delegates in seven states, with the biggest prizes Texas, with 123 delegates, and Florida, with 98.

Dole already has well over one third of the 996 delegates needed for the GOP nomination.

Polls show him leading in all seven Super Tuesday states - Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Oregon.

Dole came to Florida from Biloxi, Miss. - his last campaign event on Saturday - by way of Dallas, where his only public appearance was Sunday’s church service.

At the Prestonwood Baptist Church in North Dallas, Dole was introduced and praised by the pastor, the Rev. Jack Graham, for a “stand for the beliefs that we hold so dear as Christians and Americans” and for a “long life of trusted, proven national leadership.”

Elizabeth Dole also addressed the congregation on the role of religion in her life, saying that she grew up in North Carolina where the gospel was “as much a part of our lives as fried chicken and azaleas in the spring.”

“I had God neatly compartmentalized in a drawer somewhere in between gardening and government. … My life was threatened by spiritual starvation,” said Dole, who is on leave as head of the Red Cross.

But she said that had learned to make more time in her life for worshiping.

The magazine publisher won the Delaware and Arizona primaries but has not been able to build on those two victories in subsequent contests. The centerpiece of his campaign - a 17 percent flat tax - has sparked interest among GOP voters, though it has not translated into support at the ballot box.