Saying Farewell To A Futile Campaign

On paper, at least, she was No. 2. In poll after poll, Elizabeth Dole trailed only front-runner George W. Bush in the race for the Republican presidential nomination--and in some, she was far ahead of rivals John McCain and Steve Forbes. Dole consistently edged out Al Gore in popularity surveys. Women, especially, came out to see the candidate billed as the first serious woman to run for president.

It wasn't enough. Last week, with her teary-eyed husband, Bob, beside her, Dole announced she was dropping out. "The odds," she said in her farewell speech, were "overwhelming. It would be futile to continue." The early months of a presidential campaign aren't about popularity, but money. And by that measure Dole lagged desperately behind. Bush's fund-raising machine is slowly sucking the oxygen out of his rivals' campaigns. With a record $57 million at his disposal, Bush has forced the others to scramble for dollars just to stay alive. None had a harder time than Dole. Despite her hectic fund-raising schedule--she hosted more than 70 events--Dole managed to coax a mere $4.8 million out of her supporters. Less than even Gary Bauer, who barely registers in the polls. Last week Dole became the fourth Republican contender to give up before a single primary vote was cast.

Money alone may not explain Dole's inability to catch fire with voters. Though she had solid credentials--two-time cabinet secretary, Red Cross president--she was a rookie to elective politics. She was uneasy with reporters, and at times her penchant for perfection undercut the spontaneity and quick reflexes campaign life demands. Dole never articulated a clear agenda, and the issues that did win her attention, her centrist positions on abortion and gun control, may have alienated many of the conservatives she needed.

For weeks there had been rumors she was thinking about quitting. Three top staffers abandoned the campaign, and her already dwindling contributions slowed to a trickle. Last week Dole expressed regret that she had to quit before Americans got to know her. They may get another chance. Dole is occasionally mentioned as a vice presidential possibility; she might make history yet.

Saying Farewell To A Futile Campaign | News