SALISBURY, MD., MARCH 3 -- Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) picked up the endorsement today of former U.N. ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and trumpeted the news here, even suggesting he would choose her as his running mate if he is nominated as Republican presidential candidate.
"Got Jeane Kirkpatrick on board this morning. Make a good ticket, wouldn't it?" he said to a crowd greeting him at Salisbury airport. "Wouldn't be bad."
Kirkpatrick endorsed Dole at a Washington hotel where he addressed the White House Conference for a Drug Free America. "It does in Maryland what it does everywhere," Dole said. "It sends a strong signal to conservatives. She is the strongest foreign policy voice outside the administration."
Voter polls before the South Carolina primary Saturday and "Super Tuesday" contests next week indicate that Vice President Bush has a strong hold on the conservative vote and that Dole has been unable to crack it. Dole aides called the Kirkpatrick endorsement a boost to his credentials among conservatives.
"More than any other person, Jeane Kirkpatrick symbolizes the soul of the Reagan revolution . . . . The heart and soul of the Reagan revolution says the best way to preserve and strengthen the Reagan legacy is to vote for Bob Dole," he said.
Dole is given a good chance of winning the Maryland primary Tuesday, and it is one of only a handful of the 17 states voting that day in which he is tied with or near Bush in the polls.
"Bush has got the name recognition and the establishment. We've got the grass-roots workers, knocking on doors and stuffing envelopes," Dole said of the Maryland contest.
Warming up the crowd on his behalf were former senator J. Glenn Beall Jr. (R-Md.), Calvert County Commissioner Joyce Lyons Terhes and, in a surprise, former lieutenant governor Samuel Bogley, a Democrat who announced he is for Dole.
In an interview on the way to Salisbury, Dole pointed to polls indicating he could defeat leading Democrats in November, while Bush could not. "The point is we're in for the long haul, and electability is a factor," Dole said. "We're going to just keep hammering away."
Addressing a largely Democratic audience employed by Frank Perdue, the Delmarva poultry producer, Dole evoked his modest Kansas roots and extolled "traditional, small-town values." But, playing to his mostly low-income listeners, he added, "We've got a lot of problems and a lot of opportunities in America . . . . Some are waiting for more hope and more opportunity in America."
Jobs, he said, are "what America is all about, putting bread on the table. In this case, putting chicken on the table, whatever the case may be."
Bush, meanwhile, was campaigning in South Carolina where he charged Dole with waffling on tax issues. Aides said later that the vice president was referring to a 1985 revenue-raising proposal by Dole.
"Sometimes he says I won't raise your taxes, and sometimes he says I won't raise your tax rates," Bush said in a speech. "There's a difference.
"Sometimes he says he's for an oil import fee that would raise the cost of doing business for everybody here and driving a car. Sometimes he'd say he'd consider it.
"I believe the senator is interested in a $5 per barrel oil import fee or a package that would raise revenues by $40 billion over three years. He's endorsed those things, so he should explain to you whether that's his policy or not.
"And so you can call it fees, you can call it taxes, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck," he said. "I want to hold the line on taxes and on fees."
When Bush aides were asked to identify the $40 billion package, they said the vice president was talking to a budget proposal made in 1985 by Dole and Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.). Press spokesman Stephen Hart said Bush was not talking about any recent proposal by Dole.
The vice president was also asked today about charges by Dole that when Bush was Central Intelligence Agency director he knew of of Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega's involvement in drug trafficking. He said "part of what I don't do is go out and discuss when I take an oath of office at CIA to protect sources and methods of intelligence. I think the American people respect that. I think one of the reasons we're doing well is people equate leadership with following the proper precedents and resisting cheap shots during a political campaign."
Staff writer David Hoffman contributed to this report.