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Dole targets business proposal at gender gap

Small business is a key component of the Republican coalition. Women voters are a problem for GOP candidates. So Wednesday, Republican presidential contender Bob Dole highlighted his plans to help entrepreneurial women build on their record of business success.

At a manufacturer of giant paper clips near Pittsburgh and at a cookie-making factory in this Philadelphia suburb, run by women and their families, Dole delivered a dual-purpose message designed to solidify support from small business owners and to overcome the gender gap that plagues him and many others in his party.

His promise to cut estate taxes and capital gains taxes and lift the burden of government regulation drew praise from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

And Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., his choice for keynote speaker at next month's Republican National Convention, told the Pittsburgh audience the gender gap would disappear as women learn more about Dole's record.

But the Pennsylvania Democratic Party responded that a record number of small businesses has been created in each of the three years of the Clinton presidency and lending to women by the Small Business Administration has tripled.

A poll published Wednesday in the Harrisburg Patriot-News gave Clinton a 56 percent to 32 percent lead over Dole in this key swing state. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican who has been interviewed by Dole's vice presidential screening committee, traveled with the former Kansas senator Wednesday, but the Harrisburg poll said that as many voters _ 19 percent _ said they would be less likely to vote for a Dole-Ridge ticket as said that the choice of their governor would likely swing them to Dole.