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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dole Fights to Be 'Second Truman'

WASHINGTON -- With only five days to go before the U.S. election, Republican candidate Bob Dole was spending Halloween on Thursday trying to spook President Bill Clinton by decrying his ethics and management of the economy.


Polls and pundits put Dole down as a likely victim of a Clinton landslide, but the former Kansas senator told a campaign rally in Louisiana on Wednesday night he saw himself as the "second Harry Truman."


His hopes of matching President Harry Truman, who defied the odds in 1948 in beating Republican Tom Dewey, rest largely on convincing voters that Clinton is ethically flawed and that the country is headed for a recession.


But his message appears not to have struck a chord in California, the largest state, with the most electoral votes.


A new poll released Thursday found Clinton had widened his lead in the state to 18 points. The independent Field Institute poll showed Clinton ahead 52 percent to 34 percent.


Dole has made an all-out push in the final weeks of the campaign to capture California's 54 electoral votes after earlier polls showed he was closing in on Clinton.


The Republican has repeatedly challenged Clinton over ethical problems. Dole told British journalist David Frost in an interview to be aired by the Public Broadcasting Service on Friday that Clinton "obviously knew about it," referring to campaign money given by foreign donors.


He accused the White House of "stonewalling now, hoping to get through the election." "I think there could be a calamity afterwards," he added, suggesting a possible legal quagmire for the Clinton White House.


In trying to keep the heat on, Dole has found a friend in Ross Perot. In Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Reform Party candidate challenged Clinton to defend himself in an hour-long, televised election-eve debate paid for by Perot.


"I want to spend an hour candidly discussing with the president the criminal and ethical charges pending against him, his wife, his associates and other members of his administration," Perot said.


Clinton wants no part of it, his spokesman, Mike McCurry, told reporters. But he added that the president was planning to address the issue of campaign finance reform, probably Friday.


A confident Clinton was spending Halloween in campaign stops in Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Oakland and Santa Barbara, California.


Former President George Bush, who lost to Clinton in 1992, was to appear with Dole in Florida on Thursday. Dole was due to appear in Tampa, Florida, and Miami; Atlanta; and Columbus, Ohio.


Dole has stepped up efforts to woo Perot supporters. In the Frost interview, he said, "I would urge the Perot voters, if you want change, you need to vote for Bob Dole."


Dole failed last week to persuade Perot to drop out.


The latest Reuters tracking poll showed Clinton's lead shrinking to single digits for the first time since October 24. He led Dole by 9.8 percentage points as the number of undecided voters rose above 13 percent. But Dole's support remained stuck at 33 percent.


Other polling organizations put Clinton's lead at between 12 and 19 points, pointing to a possible landslide.