(Des Moines, IA) Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole is courting democrat and independent voters in hopes they’ll show up for the February 7, 2000 Iowa Caucuses, the first major test of the campaign.

“Let’s see what happens because a lot of people are saying, ‘I want to come over. I want to be part of this,” Dole told reporters in Des Moines after a Friday morning speech.

After her speech to employees of an insurance company, Dole stood at the room’s exit to shake hands with the workers.

“I’ve been dreaming of a woman president since I was a little girl,” one woman told Dole. “With your help, let’s go do it,” Dole replied. “Let’s make history.”

Dole said later that another “lady came through just then and said, “I’m a democrat, but I think you just converted me to be a republican,’ and I said, “Well, we need good democrats for Dole, too.”

Iowa’s Caucuses traditionally attract party regulars rather than cross-over voters. Over 2,000 neighborhood meetings, or “caucuses,” are staged in voting precincts throughout the state. The meetings can last all night long as participants debate political issues as well as their preferences in the presidential race. Experts believe the caucuses have little appeal to voters who have little or not history of party allegiance. For example, attendance for the 1996 Iowa Republican caucuses was just over 96,000 in a state with just under 3 million residents. (editor: 2.77 million according to last census)

“I really believe we’re seeing over-flow crowds at all of our events as we travel across the country… because there are a lot of people who are coming out who’ve never been active in presidential politics
before,” Dole said during her speech.

In recent speeches and again on Friday, Dole has diverted from her G.O.P. competitors by advocating gun restrictions, like a ban on assault weapons, rapid-fire guns which dole says are not used by hunters or by citizens who want to defend their families. Dole favors a controversial idea being debated in the U.S. Senate: requiring mandatory background checks of all persons who try to buy a gun at a gun show.

“But it’s not going to work unless we have full-funding, which Clinton/Gore have not provided. They cut the money for instant background checks,” Dole said.

And while over half the states have laws which allow citizens to carry concealed or hidden weapons, Dole opposes the practice.

“I think carry concealed weapons is wrong,” Dole said. dole said if elected President, she would not impose a nationwide ban on concealed weapons as “it’s up to the states to decide.” Dole praised Iowa’s concealed weapons law which allows only law enforcement officers, body guards or those who handle large amounts of cash to carry concealed weapons.