Dole seeks funds for wife's race

Ex-senator taps GOP contacts to keep wife's candidacy alive

By David Von Drehle and Dan Balz Washington Post, 09/26/99

ASHINGTON - Former Senate majority leader Bob Dole has begun an aggressive campaign to coax money from the Republican establishment to keep his wife Elizabeth's presidential campaign going, according to GOP sources.

Despite her strong showing in last month's Iowa straw poll, and national surveys that place her a distant second in the GOP field, top advisers told Mrs. Dole she would have to consider quitting the race if she does not have adequate financing. The fund-raising advantage of Texas Governor George W. Bush was the major factor in that analysis.

At the end of June, Bush had raised more than $37 million, compared to Dole's $3.5 million. Since then, the gap has widened, as Bush has pushed his total past $52 million.

Bob Dole's fund-raising efforts reflect the stepped-up role he is playing in his wife's campaign, including participation in strategy meetings. ''The senator's role has increased dramatically since the straw poll,'' a key Dole supporter said.

Some Dole supporters believe the former senator's activity represents ''penance'' for earlier comments critical of his wife's campaign, while others say he was invigorated by the results of the Iowa straw poll. But his involvement also reflects his concern that a lack of money could cripple her efforts to compete when the primary and caucus season begins next winter.

The former sentor is tapping his large range of contacts inside the party, built over a long career that culminated in his winning the GOP nomination for president in 1996.

The vast majority of his former fund-raisers support Bush. So Bob Dole has been contacting them to argue that it is essential to keep his wife's candidacy alive because it is good for the image of the GOP and in drawing new support, especially from women. The party will benefit from her candidacy no matter who wins the nomination, he has argued.

The candidate is resolved to continue her campaign. ''This thing is full speed ahead,'' said Tony Fabrizio, a top Dole strategist who also said he knew of no advisers warning Dole she might have to quit the race unless the fund-raising improves dramatically.

''We do face reality from the standpoint of we're not going to have $60 million like Bush,'' he added. ''But we have other strengths that other candidates in the race do not have to bring to bear.''