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Wilson Shutting Down Iowa Campaign Offices

September 11, 1995

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ California Gov. Pete Wilson said Monday he’s shutting down his Iowa campaign operation and seeking other ``breakthrough points″ in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Campaign Chairman Craig Fuller said the change was made to focus attention on states where Wilson has a better chance of doing well.

``With all of these early primaries bunched together as they are, you can’t afford to spread the resources too widely,″ Fuller said. ``We want to concentrate where we think voters will go to the polls.″

Asked if the campaign was short of money, Fuller said the ``most precious″ resource was Wilson’s time for campaigning, something that is in short supply because of his duties as governor.

A relatively late entry into the Republican presidential field, Wilson established a campaign office in Iowa and vowed to compete for the state’s leadoff precinct caucuses next February.

But he has lagged in public opinion surveys and finished near the bottom in a straw poll of Republican activists last month in Ames.

``The Ames straw poll last month has served to further convince us that a caucus situation would not reward the candidate with the strongest message and strongest vision for America’s future,″ said campaign manager George Gorton.

Gorton said Iowa’s precinct caucuses are not a solid indicator of who will win the party nomination. Wilson himself said the change would allow him more time to focus on New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s leadoff primary eight days after the Iowa caucuses.

``While the other candidates are commuting between New Hampshire and Iowa, I’ll be on the road between Portsmouth and Hanover _ and stopping at every town in between,″ Wilson said in a statement.

Campaign staffers in Iowa will be sent to other key states, including New Hampshire and New York, which along with Florida and Arizona would be ``the key breakthrough points for the campaign.″

In an interview, Fuller sought to quell suggestions that Wilson’s early low standing in the polls was damaging his fund raising.

``We’re using our financial resources to our best advantage,″ Fuller said.

Other GOP presidential contenders said Wilson’s move showed the weakness of his campaign.

``Pulling out of Iowa is in effect pulling out of the race,″ said Mark Merritt, a spokesman for former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander. ``I predict Wilson will be out of the race by Thanksgiving.″

``He’s the first loser of the Iowa caucuses and they’re still five months away,″ said Nelson Warfield, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Lynn Moten, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, said Wilson’s decision ``just allows our voice to be heard in a less crowded field.″

Wilson is not first presidential contender to bypass Iowa’s caucuses. When Vice President Al Gore sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1987-88, he pulled out of the Iowa campaign, saying the state was too small and liberal to be representative.

Dole is generally considered the favorite in the Republican precinct caucuses this time around, given his long campaign history in the state.

Gorton said the move will mean Dole ``will be forced to fight on all fronts″ and will face a more focused Wilson campaign in New Hampshire and other states.

Gorton said a front-loaded primary season means ``no candidate can expect to effectively compete in every state’s primary or caucus.″

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