'Read my lips,' vows Dole, taxes may rise but not the rates Candidate is pleased as some polls show him catching up to Clinton

Campaign 1996

Republican Convention

August 13, 1996|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- Buoyed by hopeful new polls and the gala kick-off of the Republican convention that will nominate him for president, Bob Dole returned yesterday to promoting his tax cut plan -- but with caution.

The soon-to-be Republican standard-bearer refused to be baited into the no-new-tax pledge that had caused such trouble for predecessor George Bush.

"Read my lips? No, not entirely," Dole said in a television interview yesterday morning. The $548 billion economic plan unveiled a week ago calls for a 15 percent cut in income tax rates but also calls for ending some targeted tax breaks.

"When you're closing loopholes, somebody's taxes are going to be raised," Dole said.

He worded his own pledge more carefully:

"We're not going to raise rates. We can say that. Read my lips, no tax rate increases."

Dole credits his tax reduction plan and the addition to his ticket of Jack F. Kemp to an apparent shrinking of the gap between him and President Clinton.

A Washington Post poll taken after Dole's announcement of his economic package sliced in half the 20 percentage point lead Clinton had held for months. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they supported Dole's tax cuts.

Yesterday came word of a USA Today/CNN poll conducted Sunday, after Dole's announcement that he had chosen Kemp, that gave Clinton a lead of 9 percentage points, with a margin of 53 percent to 44 percent.

"It's looking good, it's looking better," Dole told reporters. "Looks like single digits to me."

The good news so emboldened Dole that when he visited a San Diego factory yesterday he even brought up Medicare, an issue that has worked against Republicans so far this year, as he explained his economic plan.

Despite the tax cuts, Dole's plan calls for a balanced budget by 2002, by relying in part on Republican proposals to slow the projected growth of spending on Medicare. Dole has stayed away from the issue in his presidential campaign, he gently brought it up yesterday.

In a speech to workers at the Solar Turbine plant, Dole acknowledged that many older Americans are fearful of changes in Social Security and Medicare.

"We're not going to touch your Social Security," he said. Then he added, "We're going to protect Medicare, keep it alive, preserve it and strengthen it," repeating the refrain used by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his congressional budget-cutters last year. "Otherwise in five years, it's going to go broke.

"Now Bill Clinton won't tell you that," Dole added.

With an election growing close, most Republicans have stopped telling voters that, too. But, for the moment, Dole's got everything going his way.

At the end of the convention, he gets a $74 million infusion of public money for his cash-strapped campaign. Much of it will go right into an advertising blitz promoting the tax cut plan.

Dole also got to spend the afternoon at a friend's oceanfront home in La Jolla, where he practiced his acceptance speech and worked on his tan.

Then, last night, old friends George Bush and Gerald R. Ford gave him warm and moving tributes at the opening convention session last night.

Dole even showed up yesterday in a new outfit: moss green plaid jacket, khaki slacks, tan penny loafers, powder blue shirt and yellow print tie.

The man from Kansas wasn't quite sure, though, whether the look was authentic California casual. "Beats me," he said. "How do you like it?"

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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