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Dole Puts New Emphasis on Values: ‘I Keep My Word’

September 10, 1996

BAKER, La. (AP) _ Bob Dole stood before a miniature steepled church Tuesday and offered himself as a man to be trusted: ``I’m not Candidate Clinton. I’m Candidate Bob Dole. I keep my word to the American people.″

``This isn’t nuclear physics,″ the GOP presidential nominee added.

After failing to gain much ground in the polls by promising tax cuts, the Dole campaign is putting added emphasis on values _ and taking subtle digs at President Clinton’s character.

New Dole television ads reflect the GOP ticket’s dual emphasis: A two-minute spot showcases Dole as a man of integrity and strong work ethic, including footage from Colin Powell’s speech at the Republican National Convention; a new 30-second spot pushes Dole’s economic plan.

Clinton, staking his own claim to the values vote, opened a cross-country campaign swing Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., by criticizing Dole for opposing the popular 1993 family leave law and releasing an ad on the same subject.

Aides to Dole, who trails Clinton by 15-20 points in national polls, suggested the GOP ticket was trying to highlight character and honesty without bringing up Whitewater and other controversies attached to the Clinton administration.

At the same time, Dole communications director John Buckley underscored the campaign would continue its emphasis on economics.

``In musical terms, there’s always been a major theme and a minor theme in the campaign. The major theme is the economic plan and the 15 percent across-the-board tax cut,″ said Buckley.

But William Bennett, the education secretary and vice chairman of Dole’s campaign, said the tax message ``resonates, but not enough.″

``Obviously the tax stuff is important, but the values issues _ education, drugs, our children’s prospects for the future _ that other track is what the American people seem so concerned about,″ Bennett said.

Bennett, a vocal critic of Dole’s strategies in the past, said he was traveling with Dole this week in order to ``not let all the guys talking economics get the upper hand.″

It was fruitless toil, at least where the candidate was concerned.

In a 20-minute speech in the courtyard of a suburban Baton Rouge museum, Dole put the focus on economics with a tongue-twisting swirl of numbers.

``I’m going to say this slowly because it will make your eyes glaze over,″ Dole warned an audience assembled among miniature buildings depicting the original town of Baker. He then laid out projected government spending through 2003 and calculated a family’s savings under his proposed tax cuts and education scholarships for needy students.

Hoping to reassure congressional Republicans who will appear with him on November ballots, Dole and running mate Jack Kemp scheduled a Wednesday morning pep talk on Capitol Hill. Campaign spokesman Nelson Warfield described it as ``a campaign briefing before the troops go out and take the field for the fall battle.″

While Clinton and Dole pushed family values and trust Tuesday, their running mates campaigned in the Northeast and stressed economics.

Vice President Al Gore, campaigning in Philadelphia, pushed administration efforts to bring jobs and hope to inner cities ``block by block, house by house.″ GOP vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp pushed the GOP economic plan in Newark, N.J.

Reform Party nominee Ross Perot, a late entrant into the race, was poised to announce his running mate _ planning to roll out the name in an evening TV infomercial.

Dole, closing out a four-state swing through the South with a rally in Tennessee, put the trust issue most succinctly at a stop Monday outside Atlanta: ``Let’s put on my tombstone, `The people trusted me.‴

In Louisiana, Dole cited Clinton’s new $1.1 billion anti-terrorism plan as proof that he trusts government while the GOP ticket trusts people to solve their own problems.

``It seems sometimes (Democrats) have a million little programs on how the government can tell people to run their lives,″ Dole said. ``We believe the people can run their lives better than any government bureaucracy ever can.″

His tune changed, however, in blaming Clinton for increased adolescent drug use. ``I understand the parents have to be responsible too, but why has it gone up? Because the government has done virtually nothing,″ Dole said.

After Dole’s speech in Baker, Janet Tehan, a mother of four school-aged children, said she wanted to hear less numbers and more morals.

``If a person doesn’t have his morals straight, it shows up in his whole agenda,″ said Tehan, 43. ``I think it would be good if (Dole) talked more about drugs, schools, character because this is life stuff and the decisions he makes on them now are foundation blocks for future leaders.″