Dole Discusses His Home State, 2008 Race Former Sen. Bob Dole has deep personal and political roots in Kansas. He grew up in the small town of Russell. The former Senate majority leader and presidential contender talks about his attachment to Kansas and his views on the 2008 presidential race.
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Dole Discusses His Home State, 2008 Race

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Dole Discusses His Home State, 2008 Race

Dole Discusses His Home State, 2008 Race

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This is DAY TO DAY from Union Station in Kansas City. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Madeleine Brand at NPR West.

In a few minutes, we'll have a few beers - non-alcoholic, of course - with the hardcore tailgaters at a Kansas City Chiefs game.

CHADWICK: First, being here, we asked to speak with former Republican Senator Bob Dole. He was in Kansas politics for about 50 years after a boyhood in Russell, Kansas. We're here in Union Station. Senator Dole remembers this place from when he took the train to and from his hometown during World War II.

Mr. BOB DOLE (Former Republican Senator, Kansas): It was quite of an historic place then, and even more so now, I guess.

CHADWICK: Must have been a pretty impressive building to get to for a young man from...

Mr. DOLE: Oh, yeah. From Russell...

CHADWICK: ...Russell, Kansas.

Mr. DOLE: A young guy from Russell, Kansas, where our train station was about, I think, a room and a half or so. I think one train stopped there a day. But Kansas City is, you know, was a big, big city. I'd never been any further than Kansas City when I entered the service in World War II.

So to me it was a big, big place, a long way from Russell, Kansas, or even Lawrence, Kansas where I was attending University of Kansas. So it was, you know, in those days, in my mind, it was a pretty big place.

CHADWICK: When we told people that we were going to speak with you, they said, oh, he's a great son of Kansas. Is that regional identification still important to you? I mean, you don't actually live there anymore.

Mr. DOLE: Well, I'm still a resident of Kansas, and I still vote in Kansas. I couldn't even vote for my wife, who I ran for the Senate in North Carolina in 2002 because the Kansas people have been so good to me over the years, I didn't feel right about changing my residence. So I still have a home in Russell, Kansas, still get to Kansas now and then. I miss the place, I miss working for Kansas people in the Senate, but you know, life moves on.

CHADWICK: It does. You were the Republican nominee for president 11 years ago. Senator Dole, how do you assess the Republican candidates who are running for the presidency now?

Mr. DOLE: Well, I know most - a few of them pretty well. I know Senator McCain and, of course, Senator Thompson. We worked together in the Senate. I don't know Giuliani and Romney as well, but you know, I think it's sort of shake-out time in both parties.

I mean a lot of - I think the Democrats have had the edge on, you know, people talking about their candidates because you've got sort of the Obama-Clinton rivalry and John Edwards, who may prove to be quite strong in the state of Iowa.

So I don't know. You say it's early yet, but it's not really that early because February 5th it's almost going to be a national primary, and you're probably going to have the two nominees on that date. Right now I'm a spectator. I'm not a participant.

CHADWICK: An interested spectator? Are you interested in any particular campaign?

Mr. DOLE: Well, there's a Kansan running, Senator Sam Brownback, so - but I've known John McCain. I wore his POW bracelet when he was a prisoner of war. My heart is sort of with McCain. He's had some difficulty lately. And I worked closely with Senator Thompson for eight years. But I guess the answer to your question would be right now I'm pretty neutral.

CHADWICK: There is this growing kind of a division right there over hard political questions: abortion...

Mr. DOLE: Oh, yes...

CHADWICK: ...creationism, stem cells. I mean this is being fought out right within 20 miles of Kansas City.

Mr. DOLE: It's unfortunate too, that the one issue of people - people will say I agree with you on 99 issues, but you're wrong on whatever it is - abortion or whatever - I can't support you. I mean, I think something is lacking. I mean, I expect people, if they really believe in the principles of their party, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, they've got to take a broader view.

But some people would rather lose than vote for a Democrat or Republican who might have a different view on that person's particular issue. That doesn't make any sense - or makes very little sense.

CHADWICK: Former Senate leader and presidential candidate Bob Dole, who still votes in Russell, Kansas. Senator, thank you.

Mr. DOLE: All right. Thank you.

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