After nearly 50 years, Dole has nothing to do Out of a job, he wraps up loose ends, looks to future; ELECTION 1996


WASHINGTON -- After about 114 hours of near-nonstop campaigning, Bob Dole finally got a full night's sleep Tuesday night in his own bed.

He woke up yesterday with, as he had foreseen, nothing to do. For the first time in nearly half a century, he held no political office, having resigned from the Senate to run for president and then watched as his presidential aspirations were crushed in Bill Clinton's landslide victory Tuesday.

Dole spent a few quiet hours at his campaign headquarters here yesterday afternoon, wrapping up loose ends, posing for pictures with his aides and his Secret Service detail and perhaps giving a thought to the future.

Word has been circulating around Washington that Dole would be a good choice to head a bipartisan commission to save Medicare from financial collapse. The former Senate majority leader, known for his ability to broker negotiations and bring opposite sides to consensus, said repeatedly in the campaign how proud he was to have served on a commission that "saved" Social Security in 1983.

But it is unclear whether he wants to return to that sort of work at this point in his life.

Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who replaced Dole as majority leader and who would probably be part of selecting any such commission, was asked yesterday about the possibility.

"He'd be great," Lott said. "I'm not sure he'd want to do it. I've never discussed it with him. I think he may want to say, 'Wait, I want time to go off and think things through and kind of look to my next life.' And I'm not sure he'd want to pick that cudgel up after the way it has been demagogued by President Clinton and his allies."

Dole complained repeatedly during the campaign that the Democrats had spent millions of dollars on negative ads saying that he wanted to cut Medicare.

And it is uncertain whether the president would agree that such a commission is necessary. "Any discussion like that is premature," said George Stephanopoulos, a senior Clinton adviser.

Dole said in his concession speech Tuesday night that he would sit down for a few days and then stand up for causes he believed in. He has indicated that he might devote some time to work on behalf of people with disabilities. His wife, Elizabeth, who took a leave of absence from her post as president of the American Red Cross, has said that she would return to that job in January.

Dole has been eager to get down to his wife's apartment in Bal Harbor, Fla., where he likes to tan by the pool. He had planned to leave for Florida yesterday, but Nelson Warfield, his campaign spokesman, said those plans were up in the air.

Dole had hinted at having some sort of farewell news conference, but that has not materialized. A notice here at campaign headquarters announced that Dole would be available for more staff photographs today.

Warfield confirmed that Dole had called the president in Little Rock, Ark., at 10: 25 p.m. Tuesday to offer congratulations. Clinton told him that his campaign polling showed Dole making gains in the last few days, Warfield said. He said Dole described the five-minute chat as "pleasant."

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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