March 27, 1996 in Nation/World

Dole: Now Begins Fight For Future Officially Declares Victory After Primary Sweep

Los Angeles Times

In a presidential nominating race that once flared with excitement and then faded to the obvious, Sen. Bob Dole cruised to easy victory in the California Republican primary Tuesday.

A grinning 72-year-old Dole also won Washington state and Nevada primaries and formally asserted his claim to the nomination.

“The battle for the Republican nomination is over. And the battle for America’s future is beginning tonight,” Dole told a victory rally in the nation’s capital.

Most counts of delegates had given Dole enough to secure the nomination last week. But the Kansas senator held back on his official declaration until now - a victory ever sweeter for the 16-years he spent in quest of it.

“Let me say, thank-you California, thank-you Nevada and thank-you Washington,” Dole said. “I believe our country has reached a defining moment, a new America is in our reach.”

California’s 165 delegates put Dole way over the required 996.

In Costa Mesa, in conservative Orange County, Dole’s remaining challenger, Patrick J. Buchanan, offered him a grudging congratulation. “We have to concede a certain reality tonight. … We have to congratulate him on his victory,” he said.

“No we don’t,” a member of his audience shouted back, drawing a laugh from the defeated challenger. “How did that extremist get in here,” he quipped.

California has not actually decided a contested nominating fight since the 1972 Democratic race between Sens. George McGovern and Hubert H. Humphrey. For Republicans, the clock goes back further - to 1964 and the race between Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

This year, things were supposed to change in California. State leaders moved up the California primary election from June to March - only to be leapfrogged by other states seeking expanded influence.

Dole himself campaigned here only three days and scheduled his victory celebrations not in California, but in the nation’s capital. There, he reached out yet again to try to pull his party together for the November race against Bill Clinton. At the same time, though, he gave no ground in what has become known as the battle for the “heart and soul” of the GOP.

“I believe the primary process has clarified some of the great issues in our party. My primary opponents have brought passion and energy and ideas to this race and made our party stronger in the process. The issues they have raised and the voters they have appealed to will be a crucial part of a winning Republican coalition this fall.”

For his part, Buchanan told his supporters that while he may have lost the nomination, his crusade had not been defeated but “is prevailing and triumphing in this party and in this country. It is our campaign that has set the agenda for America.”

Now Buchanan plans to retreat to his home to re-group and consider his next move.

“As long as our agenda gets a hearing and as long as the people I speak for are represented in San Diego and as long as our views get heard and we have an agenda that is clearly diverse from what Bill Clinton’s going to do, my present intention is to stay with the Republican Party,” Buchanan said in a television interview.

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