Lacklustre Dole fuels Republican poll jitters

A month after Bob Dole clinched the Republican nomination in record time, dismal poll ratings and an uncharacteristically clumsy performance as Senate majority leader are kindling party fears that he may lead it to a massive defeat in November which could even cost it control of Congress.

The second half of April was when Mr Dole was supposed to start the march to the White House, reinvigorated after the Easter recess and back in his natural habitat on Capitol Hill. Instead he has seen President Clinton widen his lead to 15 points or more and, far from using his Senate perch to define his policies, he has merely managed to expose Republican divisions on a host of major issues in the autumn campaign.

Even before the primaries, Mr Dole had decided he would be better served staying on as majority leader, rather than step aside to concentrate on the campaign. Better free air-time on the Senate floor, where he controlled the legislative agenda, he reasoned, than paid air time - especially when he was virtually out of money until the summer conventions.

Thus far, alas, the gamble has backfired miserably. On health care, Mr Dole last week manoeuvred himself into seeming to be trying to torpedo a modest but politically popular Bill that would expand insurance coverage for people who changed jobs or who suffered from pre-existing medical conditions. That measure now seems likely to go through, but only thanks to the defection of five Senate Republicans.

Much the same happened with a Bill to increase the minimum wage, pressed by Democrats to underline their concern for the worst-off. But Mr Dole resisted, only to be, in his words, "blindsided" by a group of House Republicans who support the proposed rise from $4.25 (pounds 2.81) to $5.15 (pounds 3.41) an hour. Now the increase will almost certainly be be voted upon, and approved - probably this week.

Mr Dole's basic problem, as he seeks metamorphosis from primary candidate to White House nominee, is his inability to follow the celebrated maxim of Richard Nixon; that a Republican candidate should play to the right during the primaries, where voters are more conservative, but once the nomination is secure, head back to the centre where elections are won and lost.

It is not his fault that he is easily identified with the deeply unpopular Speaker, Newt Gingrich, and the scarcely less unloved Republican Congress - or that the populist Pat Buchanan could still make trouble at the San Diego convention.

But despite a first-hand view of how George Bush suffered from identification with the far-right at the Houston convention of 1992, Mr Dole still courts social and Christian conservatives, as in a blistering attack last week on Mr Clinton for destroying America's moral fabric.

Barely six months before the vote, many already feel that only two developments (best of all, both together) can give the listless Dole campaign real hope. One is nomination of retired General Colin Powell as his running mate, the other is a Whitewater sensation. But Gen Powell continues to say no, while despite every effort of Mr Dole's allies on the Senate Banking Committee and of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr in Little Rock, the imagined misdeeds of the then Governor Clinton remain unproven.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas