08/13/08 — Bob Dole makes campaign stop in Goldsboro

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Bob Dole makes campaign stop in Goldsboro

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 13, 2008 1:39 PM

With the race between Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan beginning to heat up, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole was in Goldsboro Tuesday, campaigning on behalf of his wife.

Bob Dole

News-Argus/Greg Sousa

Former sen. Bob Dole made a stop at the B and G Grill Tuesday as part of a campaign sweep for his wife, Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Visiting several eastern North Carolina cities, the former Senate majority leader and presidential candidate spoke to a group of candidates and activists at the Wayne County Republican Party Headquarters before heading to B&G Grill to meet and greet voters.

"This is going to be a Republican year," Dole told the crowd of about 30 gathered inside the Center Street storefront, cheering on their quest to gain a majority on the county Board of Commissioners, the Board of Education (technically a non-partisan race) and in the state Legislature.

"North Carolina is a great state," he said. "We (the Republican Party) have gotten bigger and bigger and more successful and more candidates."

Later, however, he admitted the GOP is likely to face some tough challenges in November, including the possible loss of the majority in the U.S. Senate and the further loss of seats in the House.

"Restraint in taxes and restraint in spending ... We forgot those for a few years," Dole said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We have to get back to those core Republican principles."

However, he believes that despite the initial popularity of presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama, the run for the White House will likely be a close, competitive race -- a "toss-up," he said -- one that presumptive Republican nominee John McCain can win because of his experience.

"When you look at candidates for president, look at their records on national security. That's the most important thing we have. When our country is in trouble, who do we want sitting in the White House making a judgment on what we do?" he asked. "Do you want John McCain who has all this experience, or do you want his opponent who's a nice man, but is not ready? Because let's face it, it's a pretty thin plate.

"I think right now, with what's going on in Iraq and even in Georgia, there's so many trouble spots in the world, we need an experienced person in charge."

It's the same idea that he extends to his wife's race -- that experience will be the ultimate trump card, despite early Democratic attacks and the attention North Carolina is receiving as Obama's campaign targets it as a new battleground state.

"I think McCain will have a tough race in this state, but I see some slippage on the Democrats' side. I think the halo is dimming a little bit," Dole said. "She (Elizabeth) is the No. 1 target, in part, I think, because of me. But if it's on the merits, she will win handily.

"Campaigns are tough things. You just have to keep working at it."

On Tuesday, however, he would not return the broadsides fired by the Kay Hagan campaign, never actually calling her by name.

"I'm not like Bill Clinton," Dole said. "I'm not here to criticize. I'm not here to rile anybody up. I'm not criticizing her (Elizabeth's) opponent. I don't know her opponent.

"I hope she has a good time and all that stuff and loses."

Describing his wife as a lifelong public servant, he highlighted her accomplishments in helping protect North Carolina's military installations during the latest round of base closings and realignments, and the completion of the tobacco buyout.

He also noted her assignments to the Senate Banking and Armed Services committees.

And, despite her 93rd of 100 ranking on congress.org and the perception by some that she is not as responsive to constituent requests as they might like, he said "she's a good hard worker and she's helping the people who make this state go."