Bob Dole's campaign could be helped if he chooses a woman as his running mate, a pollster says.
It's no surprise that a new Journal-World statewide presidential poll shows Bob Dole has a lead over Bill Clinton in Kansas.
"Dole is going to win Kansas, let's not joke," said Del Ali, president of Mason-Dixon Political Media Research Inc., Washington, D.C., which conducted the poll for the J-W.
"But what this shows is the weakness of Dole's campaign nationally, if in his home state he does not poll over 50 percent over Bill Clinton," Ali said. "He should beating Clinton by at least 20 points."
The telephone survey of 834 Kansas registered voters, which was taken Monday through Wednesday, showed Dole had 48 percent to Clinton's 39 percent, with 13 percent undecided. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percent.
Dole's largest block of support was in the "Big First" congressional district of western Kansas, where he had 55 percent compared to Clinton's 32 percent.
In the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Lawrence, President Clinton leads Dole, 47 percent to 43 percent.
Dole's unfavorable ratings have gone up during the last month in Kansas, from 27 percent to 38 percent, the poll shows.
That's because he's "seen as taking on (NBC Today host) Katie Couric, defending the use of tobacco and trying to make abortion foes and opponents happy," Ali said.
"He needs to get in focus on his campaign. I assume that will take place in the convention and that he will have an economic focus."
Ken Collier, a Kansas University assistant professor of political science who teaches classes on the presidency, said Dole's 9 percentage point lead in Kansas was noteworthy.
"I am really surprised that Dole is not running away with the state," Collier said. "I think his lead in the state should really be bigger than Clinton's lead nationwide."
National polls have showed Clinton leading Dole anywhere between 15 and 24 percentage points.
Collier said the abortion issue has hurt Dole. The former senator, Collier said, has been trying to please each side and is pleasing neither.
"The pro-life people are getting a little edgy about him and the pro-choice people are far from convinced," Collier said.
The Perot `factor'
The J-W poll shows Dole's lead would drop to 7 percentage points over Clinton in Kansas if Ross Perot decides to run.
Dole still would win Kansas in a three-way race, getting 45 percent to Clinton's 38 percent. Perot would get 5 percent and 12 percent were undecided.
Ali said one of the key results was what the J-W poll showed about Perot -- 78 percent said they didn't think he should run.
"People don't like him. He's just not credible," Ali said. "There's not a single state where Perot's unfavorables are less than 55 percent."
Ali said Perot is now a "non-factor" in the race.
"But things can change if Clinton and Dole both go in the tank," Ali said. "The only way Clinton goes in the tank at this point is by scandal."
Looking for a bounce
History shows Dole should be helped by the Republican National Convention, which begins Aug. 12 in San Diego. His poll numbers should bounce up 8 to 10 percentage points, Collier said.
"Almost every candidate coming out of the convention gets a bounce," he said. "Clinton had a phenomenal bounce coming out of the 1992 convention."
The poll also shows that Dole could be helped if he picked a woman as a running mate.
"It would help him in Kansas and it would help him just about everywhere else," Ali said.
Collier was more wary about the effect of a woman running mate on Dole's ticket.
"It may sound more or less appealing when it's generic, but what if it's (New Jersey Gov.) Christine Todd Whitman? She is known to be pro-choice and is not shy about it," Collier said. "Pat Buchanan and that group have made it pretty clear they don't think she is acceptable."
Republican Party State Chairman David Miller said the J-W poll shows him that if Perot gets on the ballot, it helps Clinton.
"Generally, this kind of an election is a referendum on the incumbent," Miller said. "The question is do you give the incumbent president four more years. ... A Perot candidacy splits the vote that favors a change. So that helps Clinton. Simply put, a vote for Perot is is a vote for Clinton."
Miller said the poll indicates to him that close to 70 percent of the people don't care if Dole chooses a woman as a running mate.
"I believe people are more interested in a candidate's qualifications than in a candidate's sex," Miller said.
Tom Beall, political director for the Kansas Democratic Party, said Dole's failure to lead with at least 50 percent of the poll in his home state is helpful to Kansas Democratic candidates.
"Republican candidates in Kansas can't look to Dole to provide any significant coattails for their races," Beall said. "Democrats clearly have a lot of opportunities to pick up seats at every level, particularly as undecideds and independents look more and more to Democrats for moderate, common sense leadership."