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Former Senator Says He was Freed By Campaign Decision

August 27, 1987

MARLETTE LAKE, Nev. (AP) _ Former Sen. Paul Laxalt said Thursday he feels ″liberated″ by his decision to drop out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

In the first interview granted since the announcement of his plans Wednesday, the conservative and longtime friend of President Reagan added the decision is irrevocable and he would not consider a vice-presidential bid or other political contest. ’In a way I am saddened to see Paul Laxalt withdraw from the race because he was promoting the same conservative principles I promote,″ Kemp said in a statement.

MARLETTE LAKE, Nev. (AP) _ Said Du Pont: ″Paul Laxalt was a central figure in the changes that Ronald Reagan helped us make after he was elected in 1980, and I expect Paul will continue to play a dominant role in advocating the same kind of common sense changes during the 1988 campaign, even though he will not be a candidate.″

Asked whether his decision is irrevocable, Laxalt said, ″Oh, yeah.″ Asked whether he would consider a vice-presidential slot, he said, ″No, no way.″

″I’ll go practice law,″ said Laxalt, who has been practicing in Washington, D.C., since deciding against seeking another Senate.

Laxalt also said he would consider taking on special envoy assignments for Reagan.

″I’ll be on call if there’s anything the president needs,″ he said. ″But as far as active politics goes, I’ve pretty much done the shift.″

Laxalt said that when he told relatives of his decision, ″I think the family was elated.″ The announcement was made as Laxalt’s wife, Carole, his daughter, Michelle, and grandson, Adam, gathered along with a few top advisers and friends for dinner Wednesday at the Marlette tent camp.

″It was a celebration dinner,″ he said, ″This is where we’ve made about all our important family decisions over the years. It’s remarkable how much clearer you can think up here.″

Laxalt said he had been contemplating his decision since last Thursday when his finance chief, Jerry Dondero, had advised him of the bleak campaign finance situation.

At this point in the campaign, with the need to commit heavily in spending for campaign materials and to step up his campaign activity, Laxalt said, ″We had to fish or cut bait right now.″

″I have a hunch that if these other (presidential hopefuls) see these numbers, you’ll see some of them following this course,″ he said, but added that with bad advice some contenders might ″go on a kamikaze run.″

″All my life I’ve been overloaded with obligations, since I was a young lad, and for the first time, I really feel liberated,″ he said, relaxing in jeans, a plaid flannel shirt and hiking boots at his rustic mountain retreat.

The 65-year-old Laxalt, who did not run for a third term to the Senate in 1986 in order to consider whether to seek the presidency, had not formally entered the race but announced in April that he was forming an exploratory committee.

Laxalt said he abandoned the race because he would have had only $700,000 to $800,000 in the bank by Oct. 1 for the campaign and his previously announced goal was $2 million.

″By the time you get to ‘Super Tuesday’ it’s a good $7 million we would have needed,″ he said in referring to the 20-state primary balloting next March 8.

Paraphrasing what he once told former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos as a special envoy for Reagan, Laxalt said, ″It’s time to cut and cut cleanly.″

″If the money isn’t there, this would be a silly trip for us to take,″ he said. Given his campaign finances, Laxalt said he would have been ″in a horse race and waiting for one of the horses to stumble. That wouldn’t be honorable.″

In Los Angeles, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said, ″Senator Laxalt is of course a close friend of the president and the president wishes him the best ... But the president is not getting involved in the primary political campaign.″

Laxalt said his exploratory campaign took him to 39 states and 150 cities over the past four months ″and that part of it went well. But the money didn’t.″

The announcement of his decision coincided with the official dismissal of his $250 million libel suit against McClatchy Newspapers. The suit stemmed from a story that the Internal Revenue Service had evidence of skimming at a Carson City hotel-casino at the time he and other family members owned it.

While both sides in that dispute contend they won the case, Laxalt has maintained he got a statement from the newspaper group that was ″clearly a retraction.″

He said the case was not a consideration in his withdrawal: ″That was cleaned up. That was a positive.″

His departure leaves Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. du Pont IV as the main conservative contenders to carry the ″Reagan revolution″ into 1988.

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