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Bob's best buddies

Dole won his party's nomination by developing a much wider base of contributors than his Republican opponents -- and using it to wear them down, one by one.

Because of the "front-loaded" character of the primary system, which forces candidates to purchase enormous amounts of media time early in the race, a well-heeled candidate can sometimes literally win by losing, in the durable style of the old Russian army: Just pile up resources, and keep hanging in there until everyone else has to drop out.

As a senator from Kansas, a major supporter of farm exports, and a longtime member of the Senate Finance Committee (which functions rather like a high tribunal of tolls, taxes, and levies), Bob Dole commanded the GOP's equivalent of the Russian army. Until recently a champion of fiscal orthodoxy, he had many friends on Wall Street, in houses such as Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch. While essentially a free trader, he had -- like Clinton, but unlike his GOP rivals Lamar Alexander, Steve Forbes, or Phil Gramm -- moved to accommodate big business' increasing demand to pursue American commercial interests more aggressively. This flexibility paid big dividends: Despite a long courtship from the Clinton administration, top officials of all three automakers ended up contributing to Dole's campaign.

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Deeply involved in the revision of telecommunications law, Dole garnered far more contributions from this sector than any other GOP candidate. (Most of the regional Bells were ringing for him; broadcasters proved much chillier.) Dole was also as committed to defense spending as anyone in the GOP, and his refusal to bring minimum wage legislation to a vote in the Senate endeared him to retailers and wholesalers. Although some holes existed in Dole's network (the computer industry, for instance, which did not go especially heavily for Clinton either), his base was much wider than any other GOP primary candidate's.

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