Dole Wins, Says Party Battle Over

LOS ANGELES -- Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole easily won the California primary and exuberantly claimed the Republican presidential nomination. But his victory party across the continent in the nation's capital helped symbolize the gulf that still exists between Dole and many voters in the state with the biggest electoral prize in November.

Dole also won primaries in Washington state and Nevada Tuesday as he continued to roll up more convention delegates and accelerate the process of unifying the party for the fall. Tuesday night's victories make it more difficult for conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan to offer serious resistance to Dole the rest of the spring.

With almost 60 percent of the votes counted early Wednesday, Dole had 66 percent of the primary vote in California to 18 percent for Buchanan.

Final results showed Dole won 52 percent of the vote in Nevada to Buchanan's 15 percent. In Washington state, Dole won 63 percent to Buchanan's 21 percent.

Appearing at a rally before the polls had closed in California, Dole told his cheering supporters in Washington, "I'm so confident, I'm going to declare right now that I am the Republican nominee.'' Dole added, "The battle for the Republican nomination is over and the battle for America's future begins tonight.''

Dole said the country stands at "a defining moment'' and called on all Americans to support his agenda of economic growth, tax cuts, family values and returning power to the states. "We'll say it over and over and over again until the American people understand there is a clear difference between Bob Dole ... and [President] Bill Clinton,'' he said.

Dole's performance improved his primary record in March to 25 victories without a loss.

Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour said hailed the end of the nomination fight over. against Clinton. "The nomination contest is over and I hope Pat and all of his supporters will join with Republicans from the grassroots up in spending the spring and summer helping to elect Bob Dole and send Bill Clinton back to Arkansas,'' Barbour said.