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GOP CONTENDERS COURT UNDECIDEDS IN IOWA

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On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, GOP candidates hopscotched the state Sunday, courting the one-out-of-five Republicans that polls suggest are undecided.

With Bob Dole's lead appearing to stabilize, the real battle formed around who would be second.As the rivals moved from town meetings and rallies to TV talk shows, publishing heir Steve Forbes emerged as everyone else's favorite target.

"Forbes is falling, despite his massive amount of negative ads," asserted former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, who hoped to benefit from any Forbes decline.

Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, trailing in the single digits but insisting he not be counted out, ridiculed Forbes for complaining about anonymous phone calls against him: "He can dish it out but he can't take it."

Dole tried to take the high road, declining to criticize Forbes directly. But his campaign continued to air ads on Sunday calling the publisher "untested . . . and more liberal than you think."

The Senate majority leader said he was content with polls showing him with a lead in the high 20s, far behind the 37 percent he finished with in 1988 when there were more candidates in the race.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Dole supporter, predicted "a huge turnout" at Monday's precinct caucuses - predicting up to 150,000 voters, up from 110,000 in 1988. Good weather was forecast across the state.

With just a day to go, the Forbes and Dole campaigns continued to spar over phone calls.

The Forbes camp has accused the Dole campaign of being behind anonymous phone calls that misrepresent the candidate's position on abortion, the flat tax and gays in the military. It has accused Dole of hiring a Utah telemarketing company - the Provo-based Western Wats Center- to place the calls.

The Dole campaign has said it hired the firm to do some public-opinion research but Dole spokesman Nelson Warfield said: "This company never did negative calls. It merely conducted small-sample public opinion research."

In Salt Lake City on Sunday, a former employe of the company, Michael Berry, told a news conference the surveys were meant to sway support from GOP rival Steve Forbes. He said telemarketers placed calls to over 6,000 residents of Iowa, New Hampshire and Arizona. The surveys contained several statements that Berry said "slammed" Forbes and apparently misrepresented his position on issues.

Meanwhile, President Clinton wielded a weapon Sunday that he alone carries into the 1996 campaign: Incumbency.

Unopposed in the Democratic caucuses, the president wrapped up a two-day Iowa swing with a plea for a more civil political discourse. "We should not use elections to divide," he said at a Drake University rally. "We should (use) elections to move the country forward."

The trip underscored the president's strategy of trying to rise above the Republican-eat-Republican world of primary politics and savor the advantages afforded a campaign headquartered at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.