The Odd Couple

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RUSSELL, Kansas: "Bob Dole got the answer he was looking for, and we've got a veep," Dole spokesman Nelson Warfield told a crowd of impatient journalists Friday night. Jack Kemp's selection is probably the most well-known "secret" in America right now, especially after he spent 15 minutes glowing on a Dallas runway, in the lights of network cameras, while talking privately to Dole on a cell phone. Kemp vaulted into the headlines as Dole's vice presidential pick Friday morning when he started telling reporters he'd gladly serve, if asked: "Quarterbacks are always ready," he growled. By noon, CNN was reporting that high-level Dole sources had put the question to Kemp, as a prelude to the big phone call from the candidate. The drum-roll peaks Saturday at noon, when Dole and his new partner meet the press in Russell, Kansas. Could Kemp put Dole over the top? The perky former quarterback may be just what the gloomy Dole needs. Five national polls this week showed Dole trailing Bill Clinton by anywhere from16 to 23 points. A CNN poll found that Dole actually lost ground after promising what should have been a campaigner's sure thing, the big tax cut that one top Clinton aide sarcastically described as "a Hail Mary pass." In Kemp, Dole seems to think he's found his quarterback, an energetic, opinionated politician who gets along with voters better than with members of his own party, including Bob Dole and Kemp's former boss, President Bush. A California native and star Buffalo Bills quarterback who served as a congressman from Buffalo for 18 years, Kemp could draw much-needed votes in both key states. Kemp has won the approval of pro-choice Republicans (though he is not), as well as women and minorities with his moderate stands on such social issues as immigration, education and affirmative action. Kemp would also bring a sort of star quality that Clinton has in abundance, but has always eluded Dole. Still, given his bristling past relationship with Dole, it's hard to imagine Kemp allowing the dour Kansan the center stage. -->