THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: Dole faces disappointment as he gambles on the Golden State

Here, in a terraced garden shaded by palms and perfumed by roses, Bob Dole's mentor lies at peace at last. Richard Nixon's grave is just a few feet from the white-painted house which his father built with his own hands in 1912, and where the 37th president was born a year later. Today it is part of the Nixon Library and Museum. There, visitors may re-live that extraordinary career, and listen to the gravelly Nixon voice expounding his political philosophy.

In his way, Mr Dole revered Nixon. At the funeral here on 27 April 1994, he wept as he delivered a eulogy remembering "the greatest statesman of the second half of the 20th century". The two men were similar, both of humble origin, both overcame adversity. And right now in his difficult, perhaps already doomed quest for the White House, Mr Dole seems to be acting on one of the master's dicta, echoing forth from an old film clip: "If you risk nothing, you will lose nothing. But if you risk nothing, you will win nothing either."

If he is to win the presidency, Mr Dole must carry California. To do that, he must sweep Orange County and its communities like Yorba Linda. Democrats point to the place as home of some of the worst products of America - among them Nixon, John Wayne and Disneyland. For Republicans, however, Orange County is the ultimate stronghold, a seedbed of votes and conservative values first cultivated by Nixon, expanded by Ronald Reagan, only to be partly squandered by George Bush.

Like Orange County and all of southern California, Yorba Linda has changed utterly this century. Only 200 people lived there when Frank Nixon paid just over $2,000 (pounds 1,300) for nine acres of land, in the dream of growing a citrus orchard. The venture failed for want of water. Today the community is home to 50,000, a suburban Utopia of brilliant green lawns, courtesy of the miracles of modern irrigation.

But for all its creature comforts, Orange County thinks of itself as ordinary heartland USA. It believes in patriotism and the gritty, old fashioned work ethic of people like Nixon's father. Every hour from somewhere within the presidential library complex a clock chimes "God Bless America". It could be a summons to the "silent majority" Richard Nixon once so skilfully identified, in Orange County and beyond.

Now as he seeks to rouse those same troops, Mr Dole is taking his mentor's advice. "If you thought I was tough last night, that was just a warm-up," he told an enthusiastic crowd at Riverside, the day after his combative performance in the second presidential debate on Wednesday. Riverside, 50 miles east of Los Angeles, is the sort of swing community Mr Dole must carry. At that moment too his wife Elizabeth was spreading the word in North California, while a heavy Dole advertising blitz was about to hit the airwaves. After weeks of wavering, Dole is gambling all on the Golden State.

As of now he is still well behind - by 10 points in one poll, by 12 in another. If Bill Clinton loses votes to the consumer rights advocate, Ralph Nader, who is on the ballot as a Green Party candidate, Mr Dole will lose at least as many to Ross Perot. But California alone represents 54 electoral college votes, a fifth of the 270 required to win. So California it is.

Unfortunately however, not even Orange County is safe. As Mr Dole was in Riverside, Mr Clinton was addressing an enthusiastic rally of 10,000 people in Santa Ana. The latest poll shows the President leading among all voters in the county by 43 to 41 per cent, and just a few days before 20 prominent state Republicans announced they were supporting Mr Clinton.

The reason, they explained, was Mr Dole's opposition to abortion rights and gun control, and his hostility to strong environmental controls. That stance may thrill Republican core constituencies elsewhere, but not here. Mr Dole is seen as stiff and uninspiring. A friend explained: "He just isn't a California sort of guy." The rule of thumb is that a victorious Republican candidate must carry Orange County by 300,000 votes to offset the entrenched Democratic majorities in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles. On present trends, Mr Dole will be fortunate to win by a tenth of that.

Such doubts of course do not disturb the faithful. "Yes, I am very conservative," says Natalia Klugman, president of the Yorba Linda Republican women's association. "I'm also very optimistic. A big surprise is coming."

Pinned on the wall is the invitation to the California Republican party's Dole 1996 victory rally on 5 November. But a better indication of the mood may have been a headline in the conservative Orange County Register, lamenting Mr Dole's straying from the true path: "What party does Bob Dole belong to anyway?" Such is his problem even among Republicans - too conservative for the moderates, too moderate for the conservatives.

But Mr Dole can take heart from another of Nixon's principles. Never quit, the former president declared to the White House staff after he announced his resignation. "Greatness only comes when you take some knocks and disappointments." Knocks and disappointments probably await Bob Dole, maybe even in Orange County.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?