At a time when the Rolling Stones are packing arenas and the VW Beetle constitutes hot wheels, maybe it's fitting that John B. Anderson would ponder a nostalgia tour as a Reform Party candidate for president.

Anderson, who took 7 percent of the vote as an independent candidate in 1980, said he does not want Patrick J. Buchanan, who is seeking the Reform Party nomination, to become fixed in the public mind as the state of the art in third-party politics.

"I believe strongly that the political process would be improved if you had a strong independent party, and I don't want to see it get shot down by someone who represents a vanishingly small group of people," Anderson said from Nova Southeastern law school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he is a visiting professor.

Anderson, 77, said he was responding to pleas from members of the California Reform Party, whose regional director, Richard D. Porter, said Anderson "represents the real concept of political reform."

Jack Gargan, the party's incoming national chairman, said he believes Anderson would be popular. "He paved the way for independents to get on the ballot," Gargan said. "He's a good, common-sense guy and a veteran campaigner."

Anderson's views could be a problem, however. He opposes a balanced budget amendment and disagrees with the party's opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Other positions are hardly mainstream. Anderson said he hopes to spur a dialogue on such arcane electoral changes as cumulative voting and instant runoffs, and said he would work for "the strengthening and empowerment of the United Nations."

Anderson, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, supported the Democratic nominees for president in 1984, 1988 and 1992. He backed Ralph Nader in 1996. Anderson said he would decide by Dec. 30, the deadline for qualifying for the March 7 primary ballot in California. "Even though I am still of sound mind and wind and limb, it gives me pause to undertake a serious effort and not realize that I would be confronted with the question of my age," he said.

Dole's Debt, Forbes's Faux Pas

Elizabeth Dole's GOP presidential campaign may be over, shuttered due to lack of funds, but she is not losing touch with supporters. In an e-mail last week, Dole wrote:

"I am in my office at our campaign headquarters this morning working with our accounting staff to wrap up our campaign. . . . I only wish I could have had the resources to carry the campaign to the first primaries of 2000."

Sounds like a friendly thank-you note to everyone who helped push Dole, for a time, to the No. 2 position in many opinion polls. But then she cuts to the chase:

"As we prepare to close the books there are remaining bills owed of just $120,000. I am asking close friends to help with this remaining amount. If each friend would give just $25 by credit card now (today or tomorrow) . . . we could pay the remaining bills by Thanksgiving."

In other e-mail news, Republican hopeful Steve Forbes sent this out last week: "I want to thank you for 'maxing out' to my campaign by contributing the $1,000 legal maximum."

Fair enough. Trouble is the message went to everyone on the Forbes list. The next morning, a chagrined Forbes webmaster Rick Segal wrote:

"Mea Culpa. That's Latin for it was my fault. And, boy, was it ever. . . . The e-mail you received last night or this morning said you had 'maxed out' to the Forbes presidential campaign. Well, we wish that was true--but in many cases it wasn't. Don't get me wrong: we're very grateful for any support you give the campaign."

Gore and Microsoft: On, Off, On

Vice President Gore abruptly canceled plans to address Microsoft employees on Monday, citing Microsoft's refusal to allow the news media to attend, then rescheduled the trip after the company agreed to allow reporters into the gathering. A Gore adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press Friday night that the combination of a federal judge's ruling last Monday that the software giant misused its monopoly powers and the closing of the event to the press made Gore's visit impractical.

Gore's office pressed Microsoft to open the meeting before initially canceling the visit, aides said. Microsoft said visits by other presidential candidates have been closed.

Staff researcher Ben White contributed to this report.