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Sipple didn't send the memo to Dole, but someone slipped him a copy on July 4. If the hope was that Dole would make his own declaration, it didn't happen. A few days later, on a rare dry Washington afternoon, Dole summoned Sipple to the roof of the campaign headquarters on First Street, where Dole had re-created his beloved "beach" from his Senate terrace. It was only a chair, a bucket of ice water and a phone, but it was a slice of heaven for the Big Dog. Dole would spend hours there, angling his face to the sun as he worked the phone. When Sipple arrived on the roof for a rare face-to-face moment with Dole, he saw his chance: "Senator, do you have a theory of this election?"
Dole looked down for a moment, pondered the question, then turned his face back to the light.
"Think I can win," he said. "Might be big."
THE PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE WAR
For the Clintonites, preparation was all. When Dole limped back to Washington from the primaries and planned to display his legislative mastery from the Senate floor, Panetta, Stephanopoulos, Sosnik, legislative assistant John Hilley and Gore chief of staff Ron Klain plotted ways to box him in on issue after issue. Coordinating with Senate minority leader Tom Daschle and his consultant, John Podesta, they decided to link the minimum-wage increase, which Dole opposed, to every bill that he supported--most notably an immigration-reform package. Dole pulled the bill so minimum wage wouldn't come to a vote. He thus appeared to have a soul made of leather. But the Democratic plan worked too well. It drove Dole right out of the Senate.
That was something the Clintonites were not prepared for. When Dole announced that he would be leaving the Senate, on May 15, Morris was dumbfounded. "Dick doesn't respond well to surprises," says one of his partners. Morris hustled from the Jefferson Hotel to the White House to plot a response. In a meeting with Panetta, Stephanopoulos, press secretary Mike McCurry and others, he argued that Clinton should go before the cameras and make a statement. "It's Dole's day," McCurry said. "Let's stay out of the way."
Soon after, at a strategy session in the residence, Morris pronounced Dole's resignation their first moment of genuine peril. He stated that they had to "contain Dole's bounce" by driving up his negatives. Morris was so obsessed with this that he broke one of the campaign's cardinal rules: no personal attacks. Knocking Dole personally, after all, risked opening the character door, where Clinton was also vulnerable. Nonetheless, Morris wrote a spot that became known as "Quitter": "He told us he would lead. Then he told us he was quitting, giving up, leaving behind the gridlock he helped to create." When Morris played the ad for the President, Clinton was uncomfortable. "I don't really like 'quit,'" he said.
"We have to put the lid on this," Morris told him.
Clinton kicked the decision down to the staff. Ickes and Stephanopoulos proposed changing the word quit to resign.
"We polled 'quit,'" Morris said. "We didn't poll 'resign.'"