Elizabeth Dole returned home Saturday for an old-fashioned political rally welcomed by 1,000 supporters urging her to press ahead with her presidential ambitions.
"Salisbury will forever be my home," Dole said after listening to speeches from former neighbors, local politicians and longtime friends in a small gymnasium at Livingstone College.
"My roots are deep here," she said, as her supporters cheered and held signs, including one homemade one which said simply: "Dole in Y2K."
Although she is still not an official candidate for the Republican nomination, Mrs. Dole spoke like someone who is serious about making a White House bid next year. Her 30-minute speech addressed issues such as defense spending, education and the war on drugs.
While her themes were serious, the mood was celebratory inside the gym at the historically black college, which is located just a few blocks from her childhood home in downtown Salisbury.
On Wednesday, Mrs. Dole inched closer to a full-fledged presidential campaign by announcing the formation of an exploratory committee. At the rally Saturday, she only hinted that she was ready to make a run.
The closest she came to doing so was when Vincent Boyle, a second-grader from Salisbury, presented her with a belated Valentine's Day card, which said: "I would love to go on vacation with you."
"Vincent, I can't go on vacation because that would take too much time," she told the young boy. "Maybe we can go out together on the campaign trail.''
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