It is now possible to disclose - from those who know Colin Powell well - that he has not shut the door on the possibility of taking the vice presidential spot on the ticket. The general is described as not saying yes - but not saying no.
Why do I keep writing the "Powell story" when so many political writers seem to have concluded that he will remain on the sidelines in this year's election? Because I believe in the polls that show that Mr. Powell might be able to rescue Bob Dole by running with the Kansan.
And I further believe that there remains a realistic chance that this Dole-Powell combination might emerge.
Indeed, one of my sources - who is working hard to stir up support for Powell among public officials and at the grassroots level - tells me that it "really now is up to Dole" when it comes to how this story is going to play out.
He says the "philosophical direction" that Dole takes between now and the Republican convention will be decisive in determining Powell's answer. Powell, he says, simply won't be interested in running with a man who is too clearly lined up with the Christian right. The general, he says, is as conservative as Dole on most economic issues. But, he adds, Powell would want Dole to moderate, not harden, his stance on social issues.
The question might well be asked: How in the world can Dole be expected to fulfill that Powell requirement?
Well, it could happen. Dole is a disciple of Richard Nixon. Recently the Kansas senator let it be known that he is aware of Nixon's own campaign strategy and one that the former president has recommended to other Republican presidential candidates: "Run to the right in the primaries and then to run to the center in the general election."
Dole just might do this. But to attract Powell he will have to show this more-moderate direction in both his speech and actions between now and the convention.
All this sounds as though I have inside information, which tells me that Dole is tailoring his campaign now to attract Powell. I don't. He may well be thinking of someone else as a running mate - undoubtedly some governor.
But at this point I see nothing that indicates a Dole comeback from polls showing him about 15 to 20 percent behind President Clinton. That means at convention time, Dole will likely be looking for help. And he will have no other choice but to look to Powell if he is to turn probable defeat into the possibility of victory.
Currently, there are polls that show Powell's presence on the ticket could turn the fall contest from a runaway for Mr. Clinton into a "horse race."
INDEED, with Powell as a teammate, the GOP twosome just might win California. And even with the president's big popular-vote lead (as judged by the polls), the Clinton people are saying they "must win" California to keep a hold on the White House.
Oh, yes, there is the restraining influence that Powell's wife has on his political aspirations. She said "no" to the general's entry into the primaries. But my informants tell me she would - though reluctantly - be inclined to say "yes" to the vice presidential opportunity for her husband, should it come.
No, I am told, there is nothing keeping Powell from taking the No. 2 spot on the ticket but Mr. Dole and, philosophically, what kind of a candidate Dole turns out to be.
Most important to Powell is that he and Dole be able to speak to African-Americans and other minorities with a message of hope. Don't write off that possibility. At times, Dole has shown liberal or at least moderate inclinations on social issues. Forced by the prospect of taking an embarrassing defeat, he just might turn quite visibly to the left.