A fuller explanation, his advisers acknowledge, would include the fact that Mr. Dole now finds himself the senior leader of a resurgent Republican Party, and is heartened by the stumbling efforts of a 47-year-old baby-boomer president who looks like an underdog to win re-election.
Making the most of his experience in government, Mr. Dole and his aides contend that the "adult leadership" he offers is just what voters will be hungering for in 1996.
A 'New Dole'?
And they're pushing the line that there's a "new Dole" this time around, a nicer, cuddlier, more "mature" Bob Dole, less inclined to deliver the cutting wisecrack or barbed retort about his opponents for which he is known.
Conservative, yet compassionate. Skeptics point out the notion of a "new Dole" has been a staple of every one of his presidential campaigns.
Those who know him personally, or have watched him over the years, agree that something is different about Bob Dole this time around. Not that he's mellowed exactly. Or suddenly sprouted a thicker skin, after more than four decades in politics.
Instead, they describe an almost transcendental Dole, a candidate with a fatalistic approach to the game. A man who, after decades of striving heroically for the top -- and failing each time -- has somehow risen above it all, and is prepared to take whatever happens in stride.
"He's come full circle in his own life, which is like five lives for anybody else. He's been left for dead, and he was too tough to die," says Mr. Cramer, his biographer. "It's like he knew he was dead [politically], and now he's not. And he has that sort of ease, where it's like, 'You can't hurt me anymore.' "