SAN DIEGO, Aug. 14 -- Bob Dole, who huddled in his hotel suite with running mate Jack Kemp and their wives, declared a simple 'all right' after he watched his home state of Kansas put him over the top Wednesday night to give him the Republican nomination that had eluded him twice before. As the Kansas delegation began to cast the deciding votes, Dole said: 'This is starting to get exciting,' and once he had officially received the nomination, he said 'all right' as those in the room, including Elizabeth Dole and Joanne Kemp, shook hands and hugged each other. It was at times an emotional evening for Dole, who appeared to hold back tears toward the end of Sen. John McCain's nominating address at the Republican National Convention, calling it 'a great speech.' Watching the convention action on a television in his hotel suite with his running mate Jack Kemp and others, Dole said the delegates were 'wound up tonight.' Earlier, in his 33rd floor suite about two blocks from convention hall, the 73-year-old GOP nominee was beaming as he watched his wife address the delegates. 'I think I'll have her give mine tomorrow night,' Dole joked while referring to his acceptance speech set for Thursday night. After the delegates had annointed him as GOP standard-bearer, Dole made a brief appearance at a Republican National Committee Gala at Embarcadero Park not far from the convention hall. 'No man does it alone and no man will feel more gratitude than I do, for your friendship, for your support, day after day, week after week, month after month, for the honor of carrying the standard for the Republican party,' Dole said.
Pumped up by the nomination, Dole joked for the crowd that he was pleased with the delagtes' choice. 'Let me go on record here, I'm very pleased with the nominees who were chosen here tonight. If I'd have known winning the nomination was this much fun, I'd have done it years ago,' Dole said. Kemp, also appearing at the gala, pledged to stand by Dole throughout the campaign. 'I'm going to be Bob Dole's right arm,' Kemp said. 'I'm going to be his right hand.' Dole and his campaign also spent time Wednesday either cultivating or combating the suggestion that Dole was so unhappy with his acceptance speech night that he tossed out the latest draft. Campaign manager Nelson Warfield denied the report and said Dole wanted to discuss it with reporters as he left the breakfast. But when Dole entered his car moments later, he responded to shouted questions by saying the speech preparations were going 'great.' Pressed on the reports, Dole, before climbing into his seat, said finally, 'You always change a few things around.' A Dole aide later confirmed that speechwriter Mark Helprin had left San Diego, but stressed that it was because the draft of the speech was completed and not out of anger with Dole's reaction to the text. 'Mr. Dole can still consult with Mark if there is a need,' the aide said, speaking on the condition of anonimity. Earlier in the day, Dole stoked his political base, meeting with farmers and attending an event with veterans. 'Not everybody could serve, don't misunderstand me,' Dole told a small gathering of combat medal winners after he laid a wreath at San Diego's Veterans Memorial Center. But, he said, 'There's something about serving our country that I think makes us better Americans, if that's possible. We understand, we appreciate what liberty and freedom is all about.' Dole skipped any direct reference to President Clinton's avoidance of military service during the Vietnam War. But Jerry Vargas, California secretary of veterans affairs and a veteran himself, introduced Dole by praising him as a man who answered the military call 'unlike others that did not.' Dole, however, did accuse Clinton of risking the lives of U.S. soldiers and the security of the country by spending too little on defense, and he suggested he would stop the kind of terrorism that killed 19 U.S. soldiers in the June bombing of their barracks in Saudi Arabia. 'The day will come when tyrants will never mess with the United States because they know we mean business,' Dole said. 'If something happens, we will pursue them to the ends of the earth until we have justice in America. 'On defense spending,' he said, 'I want to err on the side of spending a little too much than a little too little.' Dole earlier addressed a breakfast hosted by farmers and ranchers, where he urged Republicans not to allow Clinton to claim credit for GOP- initiated reforms in such areas as welfare and farm policy. 'These are Republican initiatives -- make no mistake about it,' Dole declared. 'The Clinton-Gore-Babbitt team,' he said, referring also to Vice President Al Gore and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, 'conducted a war on America's farmers and ranchers.' Dole cited issues he believes on which farmers differ from Clinton: the president's failed bid to raise the energy tax; his opposition to cutting inheritance and capital gains taxes; his opposition to GOP balanced-budget plans; and his support for limits on the use of private property, wetlands, and federal grazing lands. Dole promised a week of cross-country campaigning immediately after the convention, and predicted he still would win California, despite pre-convention polls showing Clinton's lead in the state reaching 27 percent.