Dole resignation givescampaign a boost

Citing the exhaustive, conflicting demands of being both Senate majority leader and presidential candidate, Bob Dole, R-Kan., said the time has come for him to focus his efforts on campaigning alone. For a man who has devoted half his life to national service, leaving the Senate must feel like losing a limb. But Dole’s resignation makes clear his full-bodied intention to become the nation’s 43rd president and provides the incumbent Bill Clinton with a full-time opponent.
At a press conference Thursday, Dole told the 600 in attendance — and the nation as a whole — “I will seek the presidency with nothing to fall back on but the judgment of the people of the United States and nowhere to go but the White House or home.” Dole reached the latest in a long road of dangerous intersections and kept his gaze firmly fixed on Pennsylvania Avenue. With the title fight less than six months away, Dole kicked off the campaign in earnest and got in the first shot: a blow to Clinton’s jaw straight out of nowhere.
Dole’s decision to leave his 27-year Senate career behind was called “stunning” and “risky” by many, and we agree. But at the same time, we characterize the move as necessary; Dole’s work in the Senate wasn’t benefitting anyone, least of all a man bent on becoming president. The Republican Party, meanwhile, reels in search of a cohesive force. At least three camps have emerged within the GOP: Dole supporters; Republicans looking for another, more viable, candidate; and Republicans who feel stuck with Dole but are defining themselves away from the candidate. Dole’s absence from the insider political push and pull could go a long way in placing him above the fray.
The resignation sets Dole apart from the stalled Congress and could also help organize the splintering ranks of the Republican Party. Without broad-based Republican support, Dole cannot win in November, and he knows it. By leaving the Senate and putting his own political career on the line, candidate Dole may now garner the respect of Republican factions he so sorely needs to win. Dole’s overt gesture of confidence may assure his would-be supporters of his ability to do the job, giving his campaign a much-needed boost.
Dole once hoped to use his work as a legislator as a platform for his talents as a statesman. There’s no doubt that his more than three decades in national office featured more good than bad, but in recent months we’ve seen more of the latter. Dole’s participation in the gridlocked organization of today’s Congress wouldn’t earn him the grand poo-bahship at a local lodge, much less the presidency.
This move alone will not propel the Republicans to victory, nor will it scare Clinton into submission. Rather, the presence of a viable candidate to oppose him will likely turn Clinton into the robo-campaigner he was in 1992. Still, Dole organizers were in dire need of a headline-stealing development, and they got it. Whether that boost is enough to overcome Clinton’s double-digit lead in the polls, however, remains to be seen. The election is a long way off, and for Dole, it’s all uphill from here.