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  •   Via Phone Dole Greets Iowans

    Elizabeth Dole speaks to people gathered at Super Skate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, (AP)
    By Dan Balz
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, April 23, 1999; Page A4

    CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa, April 22 For most of today, only the voice of Elizabeth Dole campaigned in Iowa.

    Dole left Washington early this morning for a two-day, seven-city tour of Iowa, the most extensive tour of the Hawkeye State since forming her presidential exploratory committee early last month. Instead, bad weather and bad luck stranded her in storm-snarled Chicago until late in the afternoon. It took her almost five hours to get to Chicago and much of the rest of the day to get out.

    An overflow crowd of students at the University of Iowa in Iowa City waited patiently for Dole to appear for an afternoon town meeting -- and the chance to pose some questions to the candidate. Instead they got a one-way message and a promise that she would come back to see them in person later this year.

    "Hello, everyone," Dole told the students over the hastily arranged phone connection. "I'm so disappointed not to be there. Here I am sitting at the Chicago airport. . . . It's pouring rain. Planes can't get in or get out."

    It was the same in Davenport a few hours earlier, before a smaller but no less disappointed audience. "I hope you can hear," Dole said, calling on a cell phone from a car somewhere on the Chicago freeways. "We're going over to Midway Airport. We're still trying to get to Iowa. I'm so disappointed. I look forward to being in touch."

    Her absence didn't prevent Dole from delivering a crisp stump speech that shifted from the Colorado school shootings to the war against drugs to praise for the World War II generation. She emphasized her weekend visit with refugees in Macedonia, which she described as "one of the worst humanitarian disasters I've ever witnessed." She exhorted the United States and its NATO allies to step up the war against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

    "This man Milosevic is, frankly, evil personified," she said. "He's a war criminal. He's committing atrocities. We must win this war and win it absolutely."

    Dole said that means "doing everything we can from the air. We could have done much more much earlier." She also said NATO should pre-position troops in the region now to prepare for a possible decision to commit ground forces to the conflict. "We don't want to spend weeks getting there," she said.

    The big crowd in Iowa City underscored Dole's celebrity appeal. Steve Jones, a freshman at the university, said he wasn't too disappointed by Dole's inability to be there in person. "It was still good to hear her speak," he said. "I was very impressed. She had a lot of good things to say."

    Darrin Threlkeld, a sophomore, said he was disappointed she could not get there. "I'm a big Republican," he said. I was a fan of Bob Dole's." But he said he already had decided to vote for Texas Gov. George W. Bush. "I think his father got a bum rap."

    Linda Beail, a professor in the political science department, said that, though she is a Democrat, she saw Dole as one Republican who could "lure me across the aisle." But she added, "I didn't hear much today that might convince me to do it."

    Dole finally made it to Iowa for her last event of the day, a town meeting in a roller skating rink in Cedar Rapids with almost 200 people in attendance.

    She was an hour late, had passed through her fifth airport of the day, but was unabashed in her enthusiasm for the campaign trail. "It's taken me 12 hours to get here," she said with a laugh. And with that, she was instantly back in campaign mode.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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