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DOLE: `IT HURTS TO LOSE AN ELECTION'.

Byline: Brigid Schulte Knight-Ridder Tribune News Wire

His friend called Bob Dole's run for the presidency the last crusade of a great warrior. And Tuesday night, appearing before thousands of cheering supporters here, the warrior conceded defeat.

``It's a lot more fun winning,'' Dole said. ``It hurts to lose an election.''

Thanking supporters and the people who've worked for him for decades, he urged young people not to be discouraged. ``Stay involved,'' he said, after taking a sip of water to soothe a sore throat, ``and keep fighting the good fight.''

Dole, who still said he was ``the most optimistic man in America,'' spoke to a throng of Republican loyalists gathered at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel here, in a room filled with blue suits, black velvet, cigars and the occasional strand of pearls.

Although Dole's speech brought tears to the eyes of those who admire the man, no one, really, was surprised.

``I went through my mourning period a couple weeks ago,'' said Tim Bobbitt, 44, a political consultant who slogged through the New Hampshire snows in February campaigning for Dole.

Terri Galvez, 37, found herself too discouraged about Dole's chances all along to even think about victory. ``I wanted to volunteer, but when the media show those low numbers day after day after day, I just thought, what's the point? People just didn't get enthusiastic.''

Some blamed the media. Some blamed his campaign staff. And some blamed the American people.

``I'm not surprised he's losing,'' said Michelle Meacham, 29. ``But I'm shocked the American people would vote into office someone with the lack of morals like Bill Clinton.''

Dole's last day on the campaign began early, with a rousing 3 a.m. rally in Independence, Mo., home of a man who defied the odds and surprised the pollsters, Harry Truman.

After a short four hours of sleep in Kansas City, Dole traveled home, to Russell, Kan., to vote with his wife, Elizabeth, at the First Christian Church, and to share a cookie and a cup of coffee with family and neighbors at the little red brick house where he grew up. Dole was wistful, recalling that here, in this modest town, the values of his life and his campaign were forged: duty, honor, honesty, integrity, country.

``We have been on a long, uplifting journey across America. We've given our all, but with a full heart,'' Dole said in front of his house after he voted. Dole's campaign was plagued with missteps, bad luck and ill timing. Even election night, Dole's press secretary released a flowery concession statement before polls has closed in Western states, only to quickly deny and retract it.

Dole, terse of speech and awkward of body, never quite caught on with the masses. But he decided, after months of a gentleman's campaign, to go down fighting.

He campaigned to the point of exhaustion for four days straight. Ninety-six hours, often voiceless and drained, at midnight rallies on Colorado tarmacs and in California parks, in bowling alleys in Michigan and Iowa, dance halls in Tennessee and at diners in Arizona and Iowa.

By noon Tuesday, when he breezed through his hometown of Russell to vote, he had traveled to 19 states, 29 cities and logged an astounding 10,543 miles.

But it was not enough.

For weeks, Dole had opened his rallies by proclaiming them Bill Clinton's retirement parties. Tuesday night, the retirement party was his.

He had given up one of the most powerful positions in Washington to seek the highest office in the land. At the end of the day, the people had exercised their will. And Bob Dole was, as he had said, just a man.

As ``Sing A Song Of The Heartland'' played for the man from the plains of Kansas, Dole told supporters, ``I was just thinking on the way downstairs, tomorrow will be the first time in my life, I don't have anything to do.''

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO Bob Dole embraces his wife, Elizabeth, after making his concession speech at a hotel in Washington, D.C.

Associated Press
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 6, 1996
Words:678
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