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Dole Turning Over Senate Reins So He’s Free To Campaign

Wed., May 15, 1996

Yielding to the demands of his presidential campaign, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole has decided to cede the day-to-day operations of the Senate to Republican colleagues while he tries to right what has been a flagging effort to wrest the White House from President Clinton.

The move, which had been anticipated for weeks and craved by his senior campaign aides, will allow Dole, R-Kan., to campaign and travel more aggressively around the country.

“Tomorrow he’s going to make remarks about how he is going to move away from the majority leader role and into a significantly expanded role as a presidential candidate,” said one Republican source with detailed knowledge of Dole’s decision.

“He has come to the conclusion over several weeks that the best contribution he can make is to go across country to make the case why Bill Clinton should be retired,” the source said.

Dole’s duties will be handled by a group of senators likely to include Trent Lott and Thad Cochran from Mississippi, and Don Nickles of Oklahoma. Lott currently holds the No. 2-ranking position in the Senate.

Dole also has apparently decided that he will wait until the Republican National Convention to announce his vice presidential running mate.

In the weeks after his securing of the Republican presidential nomination, Dole had planned to use the Senate floor as his primary forum for contesting the presidency. He had felt the Senate floor provided a footing akin to the White House for attracting public attention. But instead of producing a list of accomplishments during that time, Dole has been dragged down by the body’s often larded process and instead has come out looking like a legislative mechanic as often as a presidential candidate.

But with a campaign sorely pressed for money - Dole will soon reach the federally imposed limit he can spend on his campaign before the party nominating convention in August - the Kansas senator was using the Senate to bring automatic media coverage and exposure.

It has been anything but favorable. There have been seemingly intractable fights over issues such as raising the minimum wage, which has the support of nearly 80 percent of the American people, and cutting the tax on gasoline, which has been tied up in partisan fighting.

And Dole is widely known as a creature of the Senate, an institution he holds in high reverence even at a time that Congress is viewed highly negatively by a clear majority of voters. As majority leader, Dole was often a fixture on C-SPAN, the cable channel that broadcasts Senate proceedings, talking in the arcane language of process instead of presenting clear vision for his campaign.

At least now, the Republican source said, Dole “won’t be talking about the third-degree perfected amendment.”

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