No More Mr. Nice Candidate

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Trailing by double digits in the polls with the elections just over three weeks away, Republican nominee Bob Dole is facing considerable pressure to take on President Clinton in their next face-off in San Diego on Wednesday. After meeting with advisors over the weekend, Dole is giving indications that from now on the gloves are off. Campaign officials say that there are a number of issues that Dole can and should talk about in the upcoming debate: the FBI files snafu, the Travel Office firings, Whitewater (bringing up more than just the issue of a presidential pardon that Dole haltingly brought up in the first debate) and the recent charge that the President may have been improperly influenced by campaign contributions made by a wealthy Indonesian family. The challenge for Dole is to distinguish personal character mudslinging on issues such as the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, Clinton's draft record and alleged affairs with Genifer Flowers from more legitimate inquiries into the President's behavior since he took office. A recent TIME /CNN poll shows that an attack strategy could backfire: 49 percent of registered voters polled say Dole has already launched too many attacks on his opponent, compared to 22 percent who say Clinton has engaged in negative attacks. And a well-oiled and smoothly-running Clinton-Gore campaign machine makes the task even harder. Vice President Al Gore quickly deflected any possible attacks on the President saying the new Dole attitude reflects a desperate strategy to win the White House. Clinton campaign spokesmen Joe Lockhart also made sure the President remained well above the fray. "We've said from the beginning this should be about issues, not insults," said Lockhart. "If Bob Dole decides to talk about other issues, that's his right. But we won't be drawn into a mudslinging match." -->