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Veepstakes, 1996 Great Lakes primaries: Four governors eager to be Dole running mates.


AS THE BOB DOLE bandwagon rolls through the Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin primaries today, the Republican governors of these big states are eager to climb aboard as vice presidential running mates. Each is in contention.

Michigan's John Engler, Ohio's George Voinovich, Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson and Illinois' Jim Edgar are conservative and Catholic, pro-life and pragmatic, acceptable to the party and successful governors of states that have cast off their Rust Belts and are a-gleam in prosperity. For Senator Dole, his nomination assured, they would be safe choices. His problem is whether they would be winning choices.

An adamantly reluctant Gen. Colin Powell remains the favorite of GOP speculators who feel their party needs the glamour, stature and excitement the nation's first black chairman of the joint chiefs of staff would bring to the ticket. Current opinion polls indicate a Dole-Powell ticket is the only one pulling even with the Clinton-Gore combine. But General Powell is also controversial, a self-styled, pro-choice "Rockefeller Republican" in a party more and more under the domination of the religious right.

There are plenty of other prospects on a Dole "long list." But the dirty little secret shared between the Republican fraternity and the press is that neither wants the Kansas senator to come to an early decision. With the nomination locked up, what is there other than the veepstakes that can generate interest?

The four Great Lakes governors in the primary spotlight today share a regional claim for consideration. With California and the Northeast tilting toward President Clinton and the South and Mountain West pretty much GOP territory, these big upper Midwest states account for 72 of the 270 Electoral Colleges votes needed to win the White House.

They tended to be Democratic in their doldrums Eighties, now have swung back to the GOP during their resurgent Nineties. Big re-election winners in 1994 by margins of 61 to 72 percent, each is more than willing be the first governor named as a presidential running mate since Maryland's Spiro Agnew in 1968.

Pub Date: 3/19/96

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