Sen. Bob Dole roared through the industrial Midwest on Tuesday, piling up resounding primary victories in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin that left him just a handful of delegates short of sealing the Republican presidential nomination.
“I think it’s safe to say now that I will be the nominee,” Dole, shedding his usual caution, declared at a rally of young supporters at a Washington hotel on Tuesday night. Next week’s primary in California is likely to put him over the top.
Dole pounded his only remaining rival, Pat Buchanan, getting three times as many votes as him in Illinois and Ohio. The outcome was slightly closer in Wisconsin and in Michigan, where Buchanan had his best showings.
With 85 percent of the vote counted in Ohio, Dole led Buchanan 66 percent to 21 percent. In Illinois the count was 63 percent to 23 percent, with 59 percent of the vote counted. In Michigan, with 75 percent of the vote in, the senator led 52 percent to 34 percent. And in Wisconsin, with 53 percent reporting, Dole’s lead was 52 percent to 34 percent.
Several news organizations declared on Tuesday night that Dole’s sweep of the Big Ten primaries had assured him enough national convention delegates to win the nomination outright. But an independent count by The New York Times found that Dole, the majority leader, would have only 914 of the 996 delegates needed after Tuesday’s final results were in.
Dole also stopped short of claiming the prize; his aides said they were eager to keep up whatever suspense they could before the California primary, when the largest cache of 165 delegates are at stake. “California, here I come!” the senator declared on Tuesday night.
But Buchanan, the former commentator, was no more than an afterthought on Tuesday night as Dole recited his streak of triumphs over the last three Tuesdays and trained his attacks on President Clinton.
Buchanan clung to his showing in Michigan as evidence that his candidacy should not be dismissed.