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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kansas Son Returns To Revel in Victory

RUSSELL, Kansas -- He has returned in pain, in need, in hope, but never, until now, in a blaze of success.


On Monday, Bob Dole braved icy winds and freezing temperatures to come home to Russell as a different kind of hero, to sweep into this tiny town -- his touchstone, his yardstick -- as the Republican nominee for president, after 16 years of aching for the top prize that his party can bestow.


It was the final step in a months-long process of warming up this cool man, of showing the world, as he himself puts it while trudging along the road to the White House, "that I wasn't born in this blue suit.''


The trip to Russell was also the peak of a push to cast the presidential race as a test of character and honesty, integrity and sacrifice -- all those things Dole says he learned in the flat lands of Kansas while growing up poor in the heart of the Depression, all those things he says President Bill Clinton simply does not know.


"It is my deepest belief that the coming generations deserve an America like the nation we have known,'' Dole told the thousands of Kansans crammed into the gymnasium of Russell High. "And it is my deepest fear that this administration is squandering an inheritance it does not value -- undermining values it does not even understand.''


Dole's hoped-for redemption began at the moment his motorcade crossed the county line Monday, slicing through a landscape so flat and empty that grain elevators here loom like skyscrapers.


When the buses pulled into the Russell High parking lot for the victory rally and barbecue, the first thing to hit was the smell of hot dogs, the second was a chant audible from out-of-doors: "We Want Dole! We Want Dole!'' While Amos Morris Gymnasium was packed, the streets of Russell were empty. The man who would be president had come home to say thank you.


"By most accounts I now have enough delegates to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States,'' Dole told the crowd. "And tomorrow I'll win enough to remove any doubts. So at this moment, I wanted to be home. To come to this place. And see all of my friends and all the people that I owe so much.''


Dole had held off claiming the nomination until he won California's 165 delegate votes, although most counts had him clinching it a week ago.


His remaining opposition, Patrick Buchanan, conceded again Monday that Dole had won the nomination and said he would be pleased to get 25 percent of the vote in California.


California officials estimated that about 7 million Californians would cast ballots Tuesday, a near-record low.


Clinton, meanwhile, got an early election-year bonus Monday: endorsement of his candidacy by the AFL-CIO, at a special convention called in Washington, D.C., despite protests by some union leaders over the administration's support for the 1993 free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.