Local News

Dole Meets with Jack Kemp as VP Decision Nears

Posted August 7, 1996 7:00 a.m. EDT

— August 8, 1996 - 3.55 p.m. EDT

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole met Wednesday night with Jack Kemp to discuss the possibility of naming the former housing secretary as his running mate, GOP sources said today.

The sources, both Kemp associates who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Kemp had follow-up conversations with top Dole advisers today. Separately, a Dole campaign source confirmed that Kemp was under serious consideration as Dole closed in on a vice presidential pick.

Florida Sen. Connie Mack also is among the finalists, sources said. There were conflicting accounts of the state of play beyond Kemp and Mack. Arizona Sen. John McCain and former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell have figured prominently in recent speculation, but there were indications both had slipped from the top tier.

Picking Kemp would be a dramatic step for Dole. They were rivals for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, and have never been close. And Dole was furious at Kemp earlier this year when he endorsed Dole rival Steve Forbes on the eve of the New York primary.

But as Dole closes in on a pick, he and top advisers have been looking for someone who would bring excitement to the ticket and energize the Republican base without alienating independent voters. Kemp, a supply side conservative on economics and an abortion opponent, is well liked among GOP activists.

Kemp was not on early Dole lists and predicted last month that his rocky relationship with Dole would keep him from being considered. But he has two promoters in the Dole hierarchy: campaign manager Scott Reed and communications director John Buckley, who both worked for Kemp's 1988 campaign. Reed also was a top Kemp aide when he was housing secretary in the Bush administration.

Dole told top aides Wednesday he had narrowed his search to three prospects and was ``very near a final decision.'' Campaign plans call for an announcement Saturday in Dole's hometown of Russell, Kan., and a joint arrival Sunday at the GOP convention site in San Diego.

Dole's pick is considered a critical part of the run-up to next week's convention in San Diego, as the GOP hopeful looks for a surge in polls that consistently show him well behind President Clinton.

Campaign officials, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, refused to name the finalists. But one confirmed that Dole's search team had been in contact with McCain and Mack aides as recently as Wednesday. Another suggested there was a strong possibility the Republican nominee would turn to someone who has not factored in public speculation _ and by late Wednesday Kemp emerged as one such prospect.

Kemp, 61, served as a congressman from Buffalo, N.Y., where he once played quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. He also has a connection with the convention city; he was born in San Diego and played for the Chargers.

Heading into this week, campaign and other Republican sources described the search as winnowed to a handful of prospects, including McCain, Mack, former Campbell and Michigan Gov. John Engler.

Asked if he was among the finalists, Campbell said: ``I don't know and I'm not going to say anything about it.''

During an appearance in Florida, Mack said he was flattered to be considered and said of a national campaign: ``There obviously are some very rewarding things ... expressing your beliefs, your ideas, your commitments.'' But he also said he found the prospect ``scary.''

McCain said he was ``very flattered and very honored'' to be on Dole's short list, but noted that his state had just eight electoral votes compared to Florida's 25. ``I don't think I could contribute as much as some of the others,'' McCain said.

Elizabeth Dole wouldn't drop any hints about her husband's search.

``I can't. It's his decision,'' she told AP.

The prospect of surprise pick has led to a spate of rumors and speculation.

Within the Dole campaign, some aides are advocating former Secretary of State James A. Baker; others note the emergence of former congressman and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a prominent Dole policy adviser.

Florida's Mack won a 1994 re-election landslide over Hugh Rodham, Hillary Rodham Clinton's younger brother, in a state critical to Dole's comeback hopes. He is a solid conservative who in his House days was a close ally of congressional leaders Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott.

South Carolina is a GOP stronghold, but Campbell backers suggest he could help throughout the region. Detractors suggest his recent work for the American Council of Life Insurance would allow Democrats to paint him as a lobbyist.

Engler could help in Michigan and across the industrial Midwest, and his tax-cutting record meshes nicely with Dole's new economic plan. But Dole does not have close rapport with Engler. (Copyright 1996 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-08-08-96 1400ED