Dole in pole position for Republican ticket

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The Independent Online
RUPERT CORNWELL

Washington

Senator Bob Dole yesterday emerged as the prohibitive favourite to win the Republican nomination to face President Clinton this autumn, as two of his rivals dropped out and polls showed him far ahead in key primaries in the next 10 days.

After his eight-state sweep on "Junior Tuesday", the Kansas senator has taken an imposing lead in delegates to the San Diego convention. He has 276 to just 69 for his closest rival, the publishing magnate Steve Forbes, and 51 pledged to Pat Buchanan, the third remaining contender. His sights trained on Mr Clinton, Mr Dole yesterday urged his party to put the divisive primary struggle behind it and focus on the White House.

Announcing their withdrawals, both Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor, and Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, backed Mr Dole. Even Mr Buchanan, campaigning in Florida, acknowledged a Dole nomination "seems inevitable".

A poll yesterday on the eve of the New York primary showed Mr Dole had widened his lead in the state over Mr Forbes to 48 per cent to 19 per cent, with Mr Buchanan in third place with 15 per cent.

In Texas, the second biggest state after California and the key prize of "Super Tuesday", Mr Dole leads Mr Buchanan by a two to one margin. He received a further boost yesterday with the endorsement of the state's popular governor, George Bush Jr, son of the former president.

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