THE MacNEIL/LEHRER REPORT
Robert Dole Profile
June 4, 1979
Jim Lehrer talks to Robert Dole
Elizabeth Dole discusses her role in the campaign and what her role would be as first lady
Robert MacNeil looks back at Bob Dole's life story
ROBERT MACNEIL: first, to some of Bob Dole's staff. The Senator's campaign manager is Tom Bell, who is well seasoned in Washington politics. He was deputy director of Young Voters in the '72 Nixon campaign, and a political consultant to the Republican National Committee and the Republican Senatorial Committee. Mr. Bell also worked as an administrative assistant to Senator Bill Brock of Tennessee. Mr. Bell, what's the main problem facing the new Dole campaign?
TOM BELL: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is to develop in the minds of our own electorate that Bob Dole is a serious presidential candidate, that he plans to make the race and win it.
ROBERT MACNEIL: They don't think he is?
BELL: Well, I think that Senator Dole made the decision to run rather late, in November or December of this past year, and many other candidates have been running for a long time. Ronald Reagan, I think, since he was defeated in 1976, and John Connally for several years, and George
Bush for a year and a half; so we've got a little ground to make up.
ROBERT MACNEIL: How does he stand, in terms of identification, with the Republican voter?
BELL: Well, we haven't done any of our own surveys, but the last survey we saw on national voter identification showed that about fifty-five percent of the Republicans in the country recognized Bob Dole.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Is the image left from the '76 campaign that I just referred to, that rather abrasive image, as some called it, is that still a problem?
BELL: Well, we thought it might be, but the more we travel and the more we talk with voters across the country, the less of a problem we think it's going to be. And if the reaction from his announcement at Russell is any example, I think that picture, or the picture that some have in their minds of Bob Dole from 1976, will fade very rapidly. He had a job to do in that campaign, he did it well, the polls demonstrate that wherever he went he was effective and the Ford/Dole ticket improved; so I think that he carried out his role in 1976 very well.
ROBERT MACNEIL: You think it needs to be shed, that idea, in order to be effective next year?
BELL: I think among some groups -- and I think they're rather small groups -- we need to demonstrate that Senator Dole is by his very nature a very positive campaigner and political officeholder.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Tell me something as the campaign manager; why, in your opinion, Bob Dole? Is it just a case of, well, everybody else is doing it, why shouldn't we have a try, or is there something that is unique about Dole?
BELL: Well, I think that the introduction show, or montage, that you did is a good example of why Bob Dole will be elected President. He comes from the heartland of America. When he returned to Russell, I think it was a very significant opening of his campaign because there are a lot of Russells in America and Bob Dole has always represented those kinds of people and that kind of place. And I think that he's a mainstream Republican, I think he's demonstrated the ability to overcome huge odds, both physically and in political campaigns, and that's the kind of person, that person that can do the almost impossible, that the American people are looking for.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Well, thank you. Another alumnus from Senator Brock's staff is the Dole campaign finance director. He is Bob Perkins, until recently national finance director for the Republican National Committee. He's co-author of a guide for complying with federal campaign spending laws. Mr. Perkins, is money-raising a problem for Senator Dole?
ROBERT PERKINS: Well, fundraising is always a challenge for any candidate, and like any campaign, we're working hard to fund the necessary component of our campaign.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Is it hard because you've begun so late?
PERKINS: Well, I think we have a number of drawbacks; we don't start with an extremely personally wealthy candidate, so we don't have a large circle of rich friends to go to. We don't have a large political action committee that's accumulated 300,000 or 400,000 names or a direct mail company that has a list like that to make instantly available to us, so we don't have those proven small givers at our fingertips. So we lack some of the assets that some of the other candidates have that make early fundraising more difficult, yes.
ROBERT MACNEIL: What is bringing the money in? What is his asset?
PERKINS: I think it's a combination of things. I think that Bob Dole is his best asset; he's established record in the House and Senate and as a vice presidential candidate. He's spoken out on the issues, and I think people see him as an opportunity to have a new voice and to exert a new influence on the course of the American political scene, and that's really what they're investing in when they invest in the Dole presidential campaign.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Is it issue money more than person money?
PERKINS: Very much so, I think so. Well, certainly any campaign must start with the friends and associates of the candidate and his wife, or the candidate and her spouse, as the case may be; in the end, our campaign is funded by people that share the beliefs of Bob Dole.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Does that make it to a large degree conservative issue money?
PERKINS: Not necessarily; I think terms like "liberal" and "conser- vative" are a little outworn. I think concerned money, people that care about the future of this country, people that think we need a new direction, whether it's in our energy policy or in our foreign affairs or -whether it's in hospital legislation-, I think it's people that feel it's time to make a positive commitment to changing our government. .
ROBERT MACNEIL: I was thinking that some conservative fundraisers have been very successful by raising funds on issues that appeal to conservative voters, regardless of the person attached to the issues, and I was just wondering if it was the issues that the Senator stands for that is bringing the money in.
PERKINS: I think it's the linkage of the Senator to the issues and the fact that he's proven himself as an effective spokesman on certain issues. I don't think it's the issue alone.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Are you encouraging him to stress some issues to increase his sort of fundraising profile?
PERKINS: No, we sort of are taking the other viewpoint; we're looking at the issues that he's been strong on in the past and is clearly identified with and trying to use those issues to raise money.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Which is the most effective one from those?
PERKINS: Well, I think that it's difficult to pick one or two. I think clearly the Senator's stand on a strong energy policy is very effective; I think his bill before the Senate Finance Committee and the work he's done over time on hospital cost legislation is very helpful; he has a strong bloc of support in the farm community for the ongoing work he's done in the Senate Agriculture Committee and the stands he's taken on behalf of the American farmer. I think those are three good areas.
ROBERT MACNEIL: Well, thank you.