Perot's Coattails

Bob Dole may have failed to win the whole prize when it comes to Ross Perot and his Reform Party. Mr. Perot rejected what he called Mr. Dole's "weird" request to drop out and support the GOP.

But the Republican had already tried to expropriate parts of the Perot persona, casting himself as the champion of campaign finance reform (a Perot perennial) and repeatedly telling audiences that his is the "real reform party." We encourage Dole - and Bill Clinton for that matter - to continue giving some Perot issues the spotlight they deserve.

Dole's wide-ranging call for campaign reform is welcome, regardless of its clash with earlier stands he had taken. Maybe he's seen the abuses so vividly in this presidential race that he's experienced a conversion. Three cheers for his proposal to do away with "soft" money (the unlimited amounts that can go to parties, not candidates) and other gaping loopholes in the current system.

Dole would also do well to take up Perot's insistence on top priority for balancing the federal budget. Both Dole and President Clinton give it plenty of lip service, but neither has persuaded many voters he can be relied on to see the promise through. And both should do a better job of articulating why this goal is important to voters for economic growth and a check on government growth.

There are Perot issues that neither GOP nor Democratic standard bearer would want to touch - e.g., the charge that trade agreements "export" jobs. Both Dole and Clinton backed NAFTA and GATT, and rightly believe in freer trade.

But by flying the right Perot banners, another candidate just might claim a chunk of Perot's 5 percent of public support - or even a little more.

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