Round Two

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SAN DIEGO: As Bob Dole prepares for Wednesday's second and last Presidential debate, the question is not only will he be able to resurrect his fading campaign but will be able to perform well enough to help his party hang on to crucial Congressional seats in California. Trailing by a sizeable margin in a number of key states including California, Dole is nevertheless spending a large amount of his dwindling and scarce resources campaigning in the state. At stake for both parties here is more than just the Presidency. GOP gains in Congressional seats in California were a large component of the Republican landslide of 1994. This year, a backlash has a number of seats up for grabs, and Democrats think if they take enough, it could be sufficient to give them control of the House. As both men hole up with their advisors for some last minute preparation, the second round promises to be feistier than the first. Contrasting with his relatively low-key approach in the first debate, Dole announced this week that he will attack the President on ethics issues. In a lunchtime speech before supporters in San Diego, Dole floated a few debate-night themes: "No administration has been more self-righteous. But few administrations have been more self-serving. No administration has shown more arrogance. But few have displayed more ethical failures." On his way to San Diego, he promised to bring up everything from Whitewater to the recent flap over donations from an Indonesian couple. But the town hall format of the upcoming debate may work against the GOP candidate. Wednesday's debate will be conducted in much the same style as the debate in 1992 town-hall meeting in Richmond where Clinton easily and comfortably outshone George Bush and Ross Perot. The format could spell bad news for Dole, both because he is not as accomplished as Clinton in off-the-cuff responses and because audience member might not ask a question that would allow him to bring up the ethics issues. The audience, screened by the Gallup organization to keep out hard-core Dole and Clinton supporters, was selected from registered San Diego County voters who say they are still undecided. What the candidates can expect to hear from them are concerns important to California voters, especially three hot-button issues: Proposition 209, a proposal to repeal affirmative action, Proposition 215, which would to allow medical uses of marijuana and the recently-enacted welfare reform bill, a vital issue in a state that contains about 40 percent of the country's immigrants. -->