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By Bob Harris
THIS SPACE predicted over six months ago that Elizabeth Dole would run for president in 2000. Why? Because Bob Dole has never made a habit of giving a political favor without collecting something in return. And in accepting $300,000 from tobacco lobbying firm Verner, Liipfert and forwarding it to Gingrich only six days later, Dole took a tremendous (and so far successful) risk that both his and the GOP's mythical high ground on shady campaign fundraising might be lost for good.
What might Dole want from Gingrich in return for saving Newt's career? Bob Dole's own political career is over. The only imaginable incentive is Gingrich's support in rallying the conservative wing of the GOP to Liddy's cause.
Wild speculation? Nope. Check out Liddy's personal staff: a bunch of Bob's campaign organizers are now working for the Mrs. over at the Red Cross. There are exactly two possible reasons for this: either (a) there's a sudden need for Republican fundraisers in Third World war zones, or (b) Liddy's doing groundwork for her own run at the White House.
Early money is key in national campaigns, because election-year contributors rarely fork over for a candidate who's already behind. That's why Dan Quayle began his campaign for 2000 before '96 had even ended. That's why Bob Kasich, Lamar Alexander, Steve Forbes, and the rest of the white shirts are already visiting Iowa and New Hampshire.
And that's why, three years before the 2000 elections, Bob Dole has already begun stumping for Liddy.
Just as Meet the Press received major media attention for its 50th anniversary, Bob Dole went on the show and pointedly stated that the Republican Party should consider putting a woman on the ticket in 2000. Why? Dole gave two reasons: (a) to reduce the "gender gap," wherein women vote by large margins for Democratic candidates, and (b) because "I've still got one chance to get there--if Elizabeth runs."
Dole also added, unsurprisingly, "I think she is certainly qualified."
Elizabeth Dole was secretary of labor for a while, secretary of transportation another time, and currently runs the American Red Cross. She also did a nice impression of Oprah at the convention in San Diego.
Now remember that Liddy has never stood as a candidate for public office, much less actually raised campaign funds or won an election. Never mind the guys; Elizabeth Dole isn't even the GOP's best-qualified woman. Off the top of my head, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman has been a prominent and consistent electoral winner, as have Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. There's also Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas; former labor secretary and congresswoman Lynne Cheney, R-lll.; and pothead-turned-anti-drug-congresswoman- turned-CBS-talking-head Susan Molinari, R-N.Y.
Aw heck, even Rep. Helen Chenoweth, Lunatic-Idaho, who spouts militia-inspired nonsense about black helicopters, U.N. internment camps, and the environmental movement as a plot to enslave Americans, has won more actual elections than Elizabeth Dole.
Obviously, if Liddy wasn't married to Bob, there's not much chance she'd be in the race. Which means Liddy is an intelligent, articulate, telegenic woman whose main qualification for the White House is that she occasionally sleeps with a famous politician.
If that's political progress for women, Bob Dole and the GOP still have a lot to learn.
This column also predicted in May that Newt would support Liddy's campaign sometime after the 1998 midterm elections, when the memory of the tobacco payoff will presumably have faded.
That's still a year away. Let's keep an eye on Newt and enjoy the show.
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From the Dec. 11-17, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
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