Dole hangs on for California win to celebrate victory


SENATOR Bob Dole, calling himself "the heartland candidate", waited last night for a clear victory in California's Republican primary to drive out his rivals in his quest for the White House.

Mr Dole (72) already had enough delegates to be virtually assured of the Republican nomination, but declined to declare himself the winner until California's 165 delegates put him indisputably on top.

During a stop at his home town of Russell, Kansas, Mr Dole promised to lead the US back to its roots. It's my deepest belief that the coming generation deserves an America like the nation I have known. And it is my deepest fear that this administration is squandering an inheritance it does not value undermining values it does not understand," he said.

Mr Dole hopes to persuade conservative rival, Mr Pat Buchanan, to drop his threat to run against him and President Clinton in November, and to keep Mr Ross Perot from again mounting a third party challenge.

I would hope that Pat Buchanan would find it in his heart as a good Republican to join forces and close ranks and bring people together," Mr Dole said during an earlier campaign stop in California.

Both men conceded Mr Dole would be the victor in California and claim the 165 delegates. A Los Angeles Times poll put Mr Dole ahead of Mr Buchanan by 5 per cent to 18 per cent of the voters.

But the poll also showed Mr Dole trailing Mr Clinton by a 58 per cent to 37 per cent margin, explaining Mr Dole's desperation to clear the waters of Mr Buchanan and Mr Perot to tackle Mr Clinton.

And both Mr Dole and Mr Buchanan made obligatory stops at the Mexican border where they promised to support legislation that would allow states to deny public schooling to children of illegal immigrants.

They have also picked up on a theme preached nearly four years ago by Mr Perot who warned the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminating tariffs with Mexico (and Canada) would create a "great sucking sound" made by American jobs heading over the border.

While Mr Buchanan wants to scrap NAFTA, Mr Dole said he would favour making some changes in the agreement now that the LS has seen its trade surplus with Mexico transformed into a deep deficit as Mexico's economy wobbles.