November 3, 1996 in Nation/World

Dole Hurtles Across Nation In 96-Hour Campaign Blitz

Les Blumenthal Scripps-Mcclatchy Western Service

It began in the Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., for coffee at 4 a.m. Breakfast was with Colin Power in North Philadelphia, lunch in Kentucky, dinner in Omaha, late-night snack in Sioux Falls, midnight snack in Grand Junction, Colo., and then to Las Vegas and finally dawn in San Diego.

On and on went Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, hurtling across the nation Saturday in search of the electoral magic that would allow him to overcome President Clinton’s lead in the polls.

As his 96-hour, non-stop campaign blitz entered Day Two, Dole continued to zero in on White House missteps on everything from the FBI files controversy to foreign campaign contributions.

“And, I want a White House that never compromises its ethics or violates its word,” Dole said in his weekly radio address taped aboard his campaign plane “Citizenship” as he hop-scotched across the country. “I still believe in the honor of that office - the highest in the land, the highest in the world - and I am still offended when that honor is betrayed.”

But virtually everywhere he went Saturday he was trailing or faced a tight race. Dole found himself spending valuable time in such traditional Republican strongholds as Indiana and Nebraska - states he should have wrapped up weeks ago.

In the large battleground states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania he was trailing by double digits, though there were some indications of movement.

“I would put his chances at one in three and improving,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., said of Dole’s prospects in that state. “I would have said one in 10 two weeks ago.”

In New Jersey, which Dole has visited four times in the past month, popular Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman was there at the diner to bolster Dole before the crowd of more than 400 that turned out in the predawn chill.

Dole, who has beginning to look tired, remained the optimist.

“The undecideds are breaking our way,” Dole said during a speech at Thomas More College in Covington, Ken.

Dole’s senior aides also said they were convinced he can win.

“Reagan gained 10 points on Carter in the last four days,” said Charlie Black, a senior adviser to the Dole campaign, who added Clinton’s recent attacks on Dole for being divisive were a sure sign of a desperate Democratic candidate.

Black said even without California, Dole could still win the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency, and he called a recent Field Poll showing Clinton up by 18 percentage points in that state “flat wrong.” “If we had voted on Thursday we wouldn’t have won,” Black said. “But the momentum is going our way.”

Since the final campaign swing began, Dole, 73, has spent just a little over an hour in a hotel room, showering, shaving and resting. He slept for several hours on the plane Saturday and remains upbeat on the stump.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email