The Golden Gate

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CALIFORNIA: A convincing win Tuesday night for Bob Dole in the California primary, with its 165 G.O.P. delegates, could close the book on the pre-season and mark the start of the general campaign. While Dole already has nine more delegates than needed for the nomination, he wants to put an exclamation point on a primary campaign that was much tougher than even his own pollsters had expected. But after faltering in New Hampshire and Arizona, Dole regained his momentum to sweep primaries on Junior Tuesday, Super Tuesday and in the Midwest. In California last weekend, where opinion polls show Dole trailing President Clinton by a fair margin, Dole has been taking on "old veto Bill" in his speeches. TIME Washington correspondent Tamala Edwards says Dole is really beginning the general campaign in California, and that he will not repeat the mistake George Bush made in 1992 by tacitly acknowledging defeat in that state. On the trail, Dole told Republican crowds: "We're not going to write off California. It's going to be 'right on,' not 'write off.'" Despite photo-op stump stops at a San Quentin gas chamber and the Mexican border, Edwards says Dole has not focused on hot-button issues on the trail. "The core issues of his campaign are going to be more Contract With America themes such as balancing the budget and returning authority to the states," she says. "This is what he talks about in just about every speech." Next weekend, the Senate majority leader begins a two-week vacation to catch his breath and plot a course through the next few months, which will feature a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill. Edwards says that the retreat will be a working vacation, and Dole will seek the advice of his wife, Elizabeth, and trusted friends.