Former Rivals Dole, Kemp Building Unlikely Rapport

WASHINGTON -- Jack Kemp was traveling from Dallas to Russell, Kansas, when he truly became a Bob Dole man. "The first one I ever wore,'' Kemp had said as he put on a "Dole for President'' button.


Hours later, that gesture did not go unnoticed by Dole as Kemp entered through the kitchen door of the house in Russell that was Dole's childhood home.


"You look good. You got your Dole pin on,'' the Republican presidential nominee said to Kemp.


It was then, campaign aides say, in the hours after Dole had offered and Kemp accepted the second spot on the Republican ticket, that the bond between these two longtime rivals began to cement.


Since then, they seem to have reached a comfort level with one another that few could have predicted, least of all the many veteran Republican strategists who know Dole and Kemp -- and the history of bad blood between them.


"There is really almost an intangible chemistry and energy between them that I didn't expect. They are getting along famously, as are their wives,'' said Charles Black, a GOP operative who has known both men for more than two decades.


"It's growing every day,'' added Scott Reed, manager of the Dole-Kemp campaign. "There's a lot of warmth there.''


The Dole-Kemp campaign is not exactly a Republican replica of the Bill Clinton and Al Gore road show of 1992, when the two baby boomers reveled in each other's company as they barnstormed around the country following the Democrats' New York convention.


Still, Dole and Kemp -- in a three-day campaign swing together after the surprisingly harmonious Republican convention in San Diego -- generated an electricity of their own.


That, along with their improving poll numbers, have prompted Dole-Kemp campaign strategists to discard plans for the men to campaign separately later this week. Instead, Dole and Kemp and their wives, Elizabeth and Joanne, will remain together for the time being -- "to capture the energy coming out of San Diego,'' Reed said.


That Dole and Kemp are getting along so well is something of a surprise because, until now, they have disagreed over issues such as affirmative action and aid to immigrants. Since accepting the running mate offer, Kemp has embraced Dole's stance on both of these issues.


Their most strenuous disagreement had been over supply-side economics; Kemp long championed the theory that the loss in federal revenue caused by steep tax cuts would be compensated by a growing economy, while Dole derided that contention.


But two weeks ago Dole made a proposed 15 percent cut in income tax rates the core of his economic plan.