A Dole for veep again?

January 07, 2000|By Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover

DES MOINES -- Bob Glasener, a local retired postal worker, carried a baseball cap bearing the words "Elizabeth the First" and a presidential seal as he stepped up to shake the hand of Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, the man Elizabeth Dole had just endorsed for the Republican nomination from the stage of an airport hangar.

Mr. Glasener had a Bush button on the cap, signifying that he was backing the Texas governor now that Ms. Dole herself was out of the presidential race and had just flown into Iowa with him to announce lavish support for the man whose money had forced her to the sidelines.

When Ms. Dole determined she couldn't raise the money to compete with Mr. Bush and self-financing millionaire Steve Forbes, Mr. Glasener said, he was undecided which Republican to back. But he settled on Mr. Bush, he said, in "the chance that she might be a vice president" on the Bush ticket.

The retired postal worker, after shaking Mr. Bush's hand, said he didn't take the opportunity to make a pitch for Ms. Dole for the job. "I think they know," he said, of the widespread sentiment in the Republican Party for having her on the national ticket. Had he asked, Mr. Bush no doubt would have reiterated his standard response that it would be "presumptuous" for him even to think about a running mate before he has the GOP presidential nomination in hand.

Party support

But it is abundantly clear that many other Republicans in Iowa and around the country are thinking about the vivacious Ms. Dole as the party's veep choice, whether Mr. Bush heads the ticket or not. She was still running third in most polls here when she dropped out and is widely considered as a magnet for the votes of women and minorities, many of whom said they were brought into politics for the first time by her candidacy.

Ms. Dole herself seemed to be entertaining the same thought in her endorsement speech, emphasizing her agreement with him on a range of issues from tax cuts and education to Mr. Bush's open declaration of religious belief. "Governor Bush and I share a deep personal faith," she said, as well as admiration for his celebrated parents, whom she dubbed "the best First Dad and First Mom a president could have."

Mr. Bush tantalizingly responded by calling Ms. Dole "a formidable woman, a smart woman, with a great track record of reform and leadership," who as a presidential candidate had "energized a lot of folks" with the conservatism and compassion that are the proclaimed hallmarks of his own campaign.

He ended by noting an earlier Dole remark as a presidential candidate that she was "a lieutenant in Ronald Reagan's army." Smiling, he added: "Well, Elizabeth, you've got a promotion. You're a general in my army."

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Mr. Bush's state chairman, said of Ms. Dole: "I think she certainly will be one of the people on the short list. And his predecessor as governor, Bob Ray, called her "a good choice, but this isn't the time to make that determination." Choosing her, he said, would not be "risky" because Ms. Dole has more experience as a leader than Geraldine Ferraro, who was Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984.

In the end, Ms. Dole landing the second spot on a GOP ticket with Mr. Bush will depend on factors other than her enthusiastic endorsement of him. As in most such cases, the pivotal question is whether the choice will help the presidential nominee. But at least Ms. Dole has put herself in a position to have Mr. Bush, if he is that nominee, ask himself that question about her.

Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover write from The Sun's Washington Bureau.

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