Jack F. Kemp scolded fellow Republicans on Sunday for appearing to abandon Bob Dole in his "moment of need" to focus instead on keeping control of Congress.
The comments came a day before the GOP, according to sources, planned to begin a multimillion-dollar television advertising blitz whose prime message was keeping Republicans in control of the House. The ad doesn't mention Dole.
With Election Day looming and Dole still well behind President Clinton in the polls, Kemp also made another plea to Reform Party candidate Ross Perot to drop out and throw his support to Dole.
"Ross, I beg you. You should be supporting the one man who can bring about these reforms in America," Kemp said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Perot, who last week rebuffed a direct endorsement overture from the Dole campaign, appeared to buoy Dole by saying on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday "if you were limited" to choosing between Dole and President Clinton, "I think every American would pick (Dole)." But Perot also insisted he is in the race to stay.
Perot, whose standing in the polls is about 6 percent, criticized the Clinton administration for what he said were ethical lapses, saying they could turn into "Watergate II" and divert attention from running the nation.
Campaigning Sunday in California, Dole called Perot's remarks "positive."
Attacking Clinton, Dole said: "It's the animal house, it's no longer the White House. . . . I can't believe any thinking American -- except the real partisans -- want four more years of this."
In an all-out bid for California's 54 electoral votes -- one-fifth of the 270 needed to win the election -- Dole was spending nearly four days in the Golden State and hoped to return for an election-eve blitz, according to his campaign.
Opinion polls show Dole from 8 to 20 percentage points behind Clinton in California.
Opening a campaign swing through three Midwestern states, Clinton announced that the deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was $107.3 billion. The White House said the drop resulted largely from a economy stronger than the administration had projected.
Republicans claimed their work had brought the deficit down.
"This is a huge credit to the common-sense Republican Congress, which fought for spending constraints," said Haley Barbour, Republican Party chairman.
Sunday, Clinton announced a $30 million spending increase for research into the genetic basis of breast cancer, a disease that killed his mother.
"Nothing is more devastating to a family's strength than when someone is diagnosed with a life-threating disease like cancer. . . . I know about this from my own family's experience," Clinton said.
Kemp, for his part, expressed "disappointment with some of my Republican establishment friends," calling it disheartening "to hear that some Republicans would run away at this moment of need for a man who has been a hero his whole career."
GOP sources, meanwhile, told the Los Angeles Times that the Republican Party will start airing new television ads today in 50 congressional districts calling on voters to support Republican House candidates to avoid giving the president and "liberal special interests" a "blank check" in the new Congress.
The ad never mentions Clinton or Dole, according to the sources, but carries the implicit message that a re-elected Clinton could return to the policies of his first two years in office -- when Democrats controlled Congress -- unless Republicans maintain their control of the House to keep him in check.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which oversees the campaigns of Republican House candidates, plans to spend $3 million to $4 million on the new ad, according to sources.
The ad is the most direct acknowledgment by party officials that Dole appears likely to lose and that preserving Republican majorities in Congress has become the party's top priority.
But in deference to Dole -- and in an effort not to demoralize Republican voters and, thereby, dampen GOP turnout on Nov. 5 -- the ad's message about Dole's dim prospects is more implicit than explicit, while the attack on special interests follows a strategy the National Republican Congressional Committee has pursued in the final weeks of the campaign, sources said.
But GOP leaders appearing Sunday on television news programs insisted Dole still could win.