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DOLE SCORES A WIN AS CLINTON NOMINEE RETREATS

Handing presidential hopeful Bob Dole a political victory, President Clinton has abandoned his drive to put a Florida Democratic fund-raiser on the appellate court bench.

Attorney Charles "Bud" Stack, who raised $10 million for Clinton and other Democrats in 1992, asked the White House to withdraw his nomination after it became the center of Dole's quest to portray Clinton's judicial nominees as political cronies and liberals.It marked the second time in a week that Dole had forced Clinton into political retreat. On Wednesday, Clinton said he would support GOP efforts to repeal his 1993 gas-tax increase if Republicans approve an increase in the minimum wage.

"I'm glad the president is following our advice," Dole said Thursday. "Yesterday, he said he'd sign the gas tax. Today, he withdrew Stack."

New Hampshire Gov. Steve Merrill, general chairman of the Dole campaign, called the gasoline tax and Stack's withdrawal "Clinton cave-ins."

"I'm not going to get involved in the political discussions. I have advised the president that I have withdrawn my nomination and basically I pointed out in my letter the reasons," Stack told The Associated Press.

Stack said his decision was based on his own reading of the political climate in the Senate and was not made at the urging of the president.

"I've weighed all of the possibilities and there was no way it was going to get through," he said.

The White House, which had repeatedly voiced support for Stack, hoped the turnabout would derail Dole's effort to make Clinton's judicial selections an election-year issue. Stack's nomination has been doomed since last month.

Dole backers predicted the action could give the Senate majority leader momentum in his fight against other nominees and add weight to his broader political challenge to Clinton.

"Americans are still paying the price for many other Clinton-appointed judges' liberal leanings," Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour said.

The White House countered that Dole had supported most of the judicial candidates when they came before the Senate, and said the judges had moderate records.

Stack, 62, is a Miami attorney who specializes in personal injury and product liability cases. Republicans objected to the fact that he had no prior judicial experience.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the White House notified him that Stack was withdrawing his nomination for a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In his letter to the White House, Stack said, "Election year politics has brought about criticism and negative comments which ordinarily would not have been forthcoming from people who knew little or nothing about me.

"In this process, all of my 35 years of professional achievement and high esteem I have always enjoyed from my peers, the court and people with whom I've come in contact were abruptly trivialized.