Sen. Bob Dole, his presidential campaign all but officially over, has notified officials in Wisconsin that he wants his name removed from the state's April 1 primary ballot.
Spokesman Bob Waite said yesterday that Dole has no current plans to campaign in any of the other states where his name is on the primary ballot and where the deadline for having it removed has passed. Those states include Massachusetts, where the primary is Tuesday; Georgia, Alabama and Florida, which hold primaries on March 11, and Illinois, where the primary is March 18.
Dole is expected to concentrate instead on winning a third team to the Senate this fall. He began closing out his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination after finishing last in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary with less than 1 percent of the vote.
Almost immediately, Dole, the GOP's vice presidential standard-bearer four years ago, withdrew as an active candidate in the March 8 South Carolina primary and notified officials there that he would not participate in the candidate debate held Thursday night.
Dole also began disbanding his small campaign staff, leaving only a handful of workers to handle federal election law requirements.
The senator has declined to announce withdrawal from the race for president formally, saying he would announce his future political plans "at a time I deem appropriate." That announcement is expected to be made in Kansas, his home state.
State campaign managers for both Georg Bush and Ronald Reagan predict a plurality of presidential support for their candidates as Iowa Republicans hold county conventions today.
Some 20,000 deligates selected at the nonbinding Jan. 21 Iowa precinct caucuses will attend the conventions, which represent the second step in the four-tier process by which the state GOP will choose its 37 delegates to the party's national nominating convention in July.
The 99 county conventions will elect 2,991 delegates to the congressional district conventions June 6 and the state convention on June 7 where the national convention delelgates will be elected.
They also will vote on resolutions, reportedly numbering in the hundreds, proposing planks for the GOP state platform.
Ronald Reagan said yesterday that he assumes it would be a close race for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination if former president Gerald R. Ford decided to enter the competition.
Speculation about a possible Ford candidacy has increased since Reagan's landslide victory in New Hampshire firmrly established the former California governor as the GOP front-runner.
Asked about the speculation, Reagan told reporters, "What can I say? The race is open."
When a reporter asked whether Reagan thought Ford would give him a tough fight, he replied, "It was the last time."
In 1976, Reagan challenged the incumbent president for the GOP nomination, losing to Ford in a race that wasn't decided until the nominating convention.
Republican Party Chairman Bill Brock said yesterday that he can foresee former president Gerald R. Ford becoming a candidate if the GOP National Convention deadlocks in search for a standard bearer.
"I might expect that kind of entry," Brock told reporters. "The pressure would be enormous for some new element to break the deadlock."
Tim Kraft, President Carter's national campaign manager, who was in Indiana to complete the steps to get Carter on the May 6 primary ballot, disputed Brock.
"I may underestimate his [Ford's] appeal, but I haven't seen an above-the-battle leader get the nomination. If a candidate comes in to the Republican convention with a thousand delegates, I'd be surprised if even a former president could take it away from him," Kraft told The Indidanapolis Star in an interview.