(Council Bluffs, IA) Potential “first gentleman” Bob Dole on Sunday returned to the campaign trail, cultivating supporters and donors for his wife, Elizabeth’s, bid for the G.O.P’s. presidential nomination in 2000, and talking about what role he will play in the campaign and perhaps, in the White House.
“I’ll do what I’ve been doing for 25 years. I’ll do whatever I’m told, you know, as most husbands do,” Dole quipped to reporters.
When pressed, Dole said he would have a “fairly active role” in his wife’s campaign.
“I haven’t done a lot early on because she had to get out there and establish her campaign. It wasn’t Bob Dole out there running again, or whatever the pundits might say,” he told reporters. .
As for what role Dole might play to America’s first female President, the former U.S. Senator Majority Leader said it would be “precedent setting” but “with certain limits.”
“You don’t go out and embarrass the president. You do pretty much what you’re asked to do,” Mr. Dole said.
Dole said he might be asked by his wife for advice on policy matters, and in particular how to get along with the House and the Senate, a Senate he resigned from in 1996 during his third and last bid
for the presidency.
Since his loss to Bill Clinton, Dole has hit the speaking circuit and appeared as a spokesman in television commercials, including a commercial about “erectile dysfunction” which strikes men who, like Dole, have survived prostate cancer.
Dole said he has turned down more commercials than he’s made and will continue to weigh offers.
“If it’s a fun thing or it’s going to help somebody, depends on what it is,” he said. “The health commercial affects about 30 million men.”
Dole acknowledged Texas Governor George W. Bush has “front-runner” status in the current race, but noted at this time in the ’88 campaign he was trailing then-Vice President George Bush by a wide
margin of about 30 points. 1988 was the year Dole beat Bush in the Iowa Caucuses.
“We’re not going to have a coronation, we’re going to have a process,” Dole said “Elizabeth will be, sort of, the people’s candidate. She won’t be the establishment candidate.”
Dole said he doesn’t have to give his wife much advice about campaigning in Iowa, the first caucus state in the race for the White House. Mrs. Dole traveled extensively through the state on behalf of
her husband’s presidential campaigns of 1988 and 1996.
“The thing that Elizabeth brings to the Republican party and to her campaign are new people, people who’ve never shown up at Republican meetings….women and others who’ve felt a little, you know, distant from our party. I think what she does, she puts a smile on the face of the Republican party and that’s going to be very helpful,” Dole said.
Mr. Dole attended two Sunday afternoon picnics in western Iowa on behalf of the Elizabeth Dole 2000 campaign. On Monday, he’ll headline her campaign fund-raisers in Omaha, Kansas City and Wichita.
During a photo-taking session at the backyard party in Council Bluffs, Dole joked that he might “run for the Senate from Arkansas” — a quip aimed at current First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s apparent decision to move to New York to run for an open U.S. Senate seat.
Mr. Dole’s appearance on the campaign trail came a few weeks after his public discussion of making a campaign donation to one of his wife’s potential rivals — Arizona Senator John McCain.
“I never was in the doghouse,” Dole replied when asked about the flap. “You have to consider where that story came from, the New York Times. They’re not noted to help Republicans.”
Dole characterized McCain as a long-time friend during their years of service in the U.S. Senate — and by their connection through military service. Dole was wounded in World War II. McCain was a
prisoner of war during Vietnam.
“You can have friends in this business and still be loyal to your number one candidate, and that’s Elizabeth,” Dole said.