Party's hopes and fears hang on Dole's words

THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

The advance publicity for once is no exaggeration. Still clearly trailing his Democratic opponent President Bill Clinton, Bob Dole tonight will accept the Republican nomination for President - and the taciturn Kansan, for whom flowery oratory is an abhorrence, must give the speech of his life.

Yesterday brought the moment Mr Dole has yearned for ever since his first unsuccessful run for the White House in 1980: the traditional convention floor roll-call vote of states, formally bestowing the crown upon him at last, at his third time of asking. But he has spent most of the past two days elsewhere, working on the address that may make or break his campaign.

Thus far the convention has been an unexpected success for the Republicans. Even the major television networks have paid their backhanded compliments, complaining that in the tightly scheduled live segments they run each night they have been forced to dance to the tune of the organisers. In the past 10 days Mr Dole has achieved most of his objectives. He has produced an arresting economic plan centred on a 15 per cent across-the- board tax cut, in the ebullient Jack Kemp he has picked arguably the strongest available vice-presidential running mate, and he has secured the endorsement of his arch foe Pat Buchanan.

Above all, in stark contrast to both the divisive and meanspirited Houston four years ago and to the highly conservative platform approved here, the message sent out to ordinary Americans from the convention stage in San Diego this week has been relentlessly moderate, upbeat and youthful.

Presentation has been slick in the extreme. Abortion, the issue which more than any other divides the party, has gone virtually unmentioned at the podium. Speaker Newt Gingrich did appear on Tuesday night. But he scarcely referred to the deeply unpopular Congress he leads, extolling instead the virtues of compassion and charity, and hailing Martin Luther King as "the greatest Georgian of the 20th century".

No less assiduously, the party has pursued the female voters among whom Mr Dole is exceptionally weak. Women such as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas and Christine Todd Whitman, New Jersey governor, have been constantly featured, and Tuesday's keynote speech was entrusted to the 38-year-old New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari, who came across less as a political heavyweight than a harassed young mother from a TV sitcom - exactly as Mr Dole's advisers intended.

"I don't know a mom today who isn't being stretched to the limit trying to hold down a job while trying to hold down the fort," she said, in a naked pitch for the support of middle-class, suburban women - just like herself. She added some effective barbs against Mr Clinton. Her speech would be "a lot like a Bill Clinton promise: It won't last long and will sound like a Republican talking."

Bringing delegates to their feet, she depicted him as a dishonest and devious radical, and his White House as a nest of his "truth-dodging, FBI-abusing, privacy-violating, drug-coddling friends".

Now Mr Dole must similarly rise to the occasion. After a listless and bungling early campaign, the convention offers the candidate his biggest and best chance to sell himself to a sceptical public. At 73, he must dispel fears that he is too old, not least by providing the rousing vision that Americans, however unfairly, expect from their President, but which the pragmatic deal-maker Mr Dole has been conspicuously short on.

A poor speech would be a disaster, even a moderate one would run risk of being overshadowed by Mr Kemp, a compelling orator who makes his own acceptance speech tonight. Mr Dole must recapture the moving moment when he resigned from the Senate in June, setting out on his last campaign as "just a man ... with nowhere to go but the White House, or home".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Ashdown Group: PHP Developer - Buckinghamshire - £29,000

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior PHP Developer - Milton Keynes...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003