But Dole's main opponent here, Steve Forbes, for the first time gave signs that he may now be considering withdrawing from the race.
With 98% of the vote counted, Dole had won 92 delegates. Forbes, who had once talked of New York as a showdown with Dole, won only one. Patrick J. Buchanan won none. Dole now has 382 delegates, just under 40% of the total he needs to clinch the nomination.
Because New Yorkers cast ballots directly for convention delegates--not for candidates--no statewide vote totals for the rival contenders were reported, but a survey of voters leaving the polls indicated that roughly 53% favored Dole, 30% Forbes and 14% Buchanan.
"Thank you, New York," a grinning Dole said after this 11th consecutive 1996 primary win.
"Our party opens its arms to all who will join us. . . . And I invite all in our party to rally under the Dole banner," Dole said to his supporters in New York over a television hookup from Florida, where has was campaigning in advance of Tuesday's primary.
As the vote totals mounted, Forbes indicated that he might soon accept Dole's invitation.
The millionaire publisher's first response to the vote was to denounce the New York process as "rigged" and to call his virtual wipeout a "moral victory" because he had succeeded in overcoming party opposition to get on the ballot.
But shortly after television interviews in which he said he intended to remain a candidate, Forbes' resolve seemed to waver.
"We will continue as long as we think we can influence the debate, as long as we think I have a chance for the nomination," he told reporters.
The New York vote was the closest the publishing heir has had to a head-on confrontation with Dole because Buchanan was only on the ballot in part of the state. Forbes spent $2.5 million on the effort--first roughly $1.5 million to overcome the very "insider" nature of New York's ballot access process, which is designed to impede candidates not backed by the state party. He then spent another $1 million to spread his message.
Buchanan has spent far less but looms as more of a problem for Dole. And in an interview with The Times, Dole expressed mounting frustration with him.
The crusading commentator already has said Dole's nomination appears inevitable but has declined to promise that he would eventually endorse a Dole candidacy. More worrisome to Dole, Buchanan supporters are now agitating for a breakaway third-party candidacy, and the candidate is remaining coy about his own intentions.
A third-party bid by Buchanan would be a "suicide mission" that would serve only to reelect President Clinton, Dole said.
Buchanan, campaigning in Tennessee, snapped back: "I don't need lectures from Sen. Dole or his minions about what it means to be a loyal Republican."
On Thursday, he preached his gospel to the Christian Academy of Knoxville, Tenn., and exhorted enthusiastic supporters to come with him and ambush the Republican Party at its nominating convention this summer in San Diego.
In mid-speech, a seminary student in the crowd interrupted him, declaring that he and other Christian conservatives had left the party and want Buchanan to do the same.
"We're not going back," shouted Eric Bonner, 25. "Don't support the nominee, Pat, don't support him."
Buchanan bellowed back: "Here's what we do. We go to San Diego, we break the doors open and we take it over."
Later, talking with reporters, Buchanan said his message to his followers was: "Let's take over the Republican Party. Let's not be walking out."
But he conspicuously avoided answering whether he would strike out on his own. And he grew testy on the subject in talking with reporters aboard his campaign bus in Florida. "I supported every Republican presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater [in 1964]. We intend to defeat Bob Dole in a lot cleaner campaign against him than he has conducted against us. . . . We make no apologies for being robust and tough in our rhetoric."
Dole sounded his diminishing patience with such evasions.
"We're supposed to endorse him whatever he does [but] he's not certain he can endorse us," Dole complained in an interview aboard his campaign plane late Wednesday night. "If there is going to be a third party, that's his problem."
Dole added: "My view is he wouldn't do that. I don't think he wants Clinton four more years. It would be a suicide mission."
Asked if Buchanan's strong showing and superheated stump verbiage may make it more difficult to unify the party in the fall, Dole said: "All I know is he is getting less votes than he did in 1992. I think it depends on what happens with [Ross] Perot and the other people and whether or not he plans to hang around" in the Republican Party.
Ultimately, Buchanan's decision on whether to support the nominee may turn in part on whether Buchanan hopes to make another run for the GOP nomination in the future, Dole suggested. "He may want to try this again in four years, who knows? But if he does, he probably won't burn all his bridges."
Dole could take encouragement from the breadth of his New York victory. Dole won in almost every demographic category, according to the exit poll conducted by Voter News Service, a cooperative of the four major television networks and the Associated Press. He won among the young and old, rich and poor, men and women, the highly educated and the barely educated, Protestants and Catholics.
He was particularly successful in carving into Buchanan's former strengths.
Dole, for example, carried more than half of those making $30,000 a year or less and six of every 10 high school graduates, groups which heretofore had strongly favored Buchanan.
Ideologically, Dole for the first time commanded even those who identified themselves as "very conservative" or religious conservatives. Previously, the best Dole had done was to split those voters with Buchanan.
It was clear from the exit polls that Buchanan's image has taken a beating, at least in New York, while Dole's has surged. About two-thirds of the voters said that Buchanan was too extreme--far higher than the roughly half who had agreed with that statement in earlier primaries.
Buchanan's inroads were essentially limited to the small group that felt abortion was the most important issue in the race--roughly 8% of the voters. Among that group, more than half sided with him.
Buchanan also won about two of every five voters who said that standing up for principles was the most important asset of a candidate, but unfortunately for him, less than one of every five voters thought that was the most important quality. Dole won the votes of the one in five who wanted Washington experience in a candidate and almost nine of every 10 people who said it was most important to find a candidate who could beat President Clinton.
Forbes overall showed more strength than Buchanan but there was some indication even among Forbes' own voters that he was still something of a protest vehicle. Two-thirds of them said they wanted to see other candidates on the ballot.
On the campaign trail in Orlando, Fla., Dole told a spirited crowd it was time for the party to rally behind him.
"I want to tell you how important this election is and how important it is that we close ranks and start working on our real political target," Dole said to the cheers of several hundred people. "That's Bill Clinton in November."
Above the applause, he shouted to Republicans: "Stop picking on each other."
Then, Dole looked toward Tuesday's seven-state round of primaries.
"If we win those primaries next week," Dole said, "it seems to me it's time for the other candidates to say: 'Wait a minute. The longer we stay in this race, the more we help Bill Clinton. If we want to help Bill Clinton out of office, then we had better close ranks behind the winner, the front-runner, and that's Bob Dole . . .' There's no doubt in my mind that Bob Dole's going to be the Republican nominee."
Dole began his campaign day in Miami's Little Havana, where he laid a wreath to commemorate the four men killed late last month when Cuba shot down two aircraft piloted by members of Brothers to the Rescue, an exile group in Miami.
Appearing before an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in a Cuban restaurant, Dole called on Clinton to use U.S. laws "to indict, try and convict" the Cuban officials involved in the shoot-down.
In a letter to Clinton on Thursday, Dole said Clinton should direct Atty. Gen. Janet Reno to seek the indictments under statutes providing penalties for the destruction of U.S. civilian aircraft and attacks on American citizens intended to influence government policy.
"Clearly, this action [by Cuba], falls within the statutory definition of an act of international terrorism," Dole wrote in a letter co-signed by Sen. Connie Mack of Florida and two Cuban American Republican members of Congress, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Absent an invasion of Cuba to arrest those responsible, such an indictment might be only symbolic, but, Dole said, it would be "the least we can do to honor their memory."
Dole's appearance before the staunchly Republican Cuban American crowd was as much a ritual of GOP politics here as the wooing of Jewish voters in the condominium canyons north of Miami is for Democrats. In his brief speech, Dole didn't shortchange his audience on the denunciations of Cuban President Fidel Castro that are the oxygen of political life here.
"In a Dole administration, we will not cozy up to Castro," Dole said. "We will continue to tighten the screws until the freedom-loving people in Cuba enjoy the same rights and opportunities as we have in the United States."
Forbes, whose campaign has been decidedly ragged under pressure of defeat and the colossal scale of national politics, retreated Thursday to his home in New Jersey, where his schedule had him conducting broadcast interviews. He also held a closed-door fund-raising breakfast with 30 investment bankers in New York.
Although perhaps early--72% of the GOP delegates are yet to be picked in this season's primaries--fears of a splintered party and a November defeat weigh heavy on Republicans.
Four years ago, Buchanan's insurgent campaign weakened and distracted then-President Bush, leaving him more vulnerable to Clinton in the November election. Four years later, Republicans fear that history may be repeating itself.
Brownstein reported from Miami, Sipchen from New York. Also contributing to this report were Times staff writers Sam Fulwood III in Orlando, Fla., Elizabeth Shogren in Knoxville, Tenn., and John Balzar and Cathleen Decker in Los Angeles.
* CALIFORNIA BATTLE: State GOP leaders fear party will put up a token fight. A3
* RELATED COVERAGE: A5
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Results from Thursday's New York primary:
Dole Forbes Buchanan Delegates won in N.Y. 92 1 0 TOTAL TO DATE 382 73 62
Note: Because New York voters cast ballots directly for delegates, no percentages are available on the vote for the candidates. 996 delegates needed for nomination