- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Forbes' timing

"The contours of the GOP [presidential] race seem to be changing with each day," writes USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro.

"Steve Forbes, after showing uncharacteristic restraint in his TV ads, has finally begun to directly attack George W. Bush with a spot that highlights the Texas governor's seeming retreat from a no-tax-increase pledge," Mr. Shapiro observed.

"What is intriguing about the Forbes attack ad is its timing. The self-funded publisher waited to unload on Bush until John McCain suddenly found himself fighting a two-front war, facing incoming fire from the Texas governor on taxes and from the media for his letters to the FCC on behalf of campaign contributors.

"Forbes evidently calculates that this is the first moment when a negative assault on Bush will not automatically drive Republicans into the McCain camp."

Best of enemies

Why do Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley dislike each other so? Well, one anonymous Democratic strategist not working for either man put it this way to the New York Post's Deborah Orin:

"Gore has this attitude of entitlement, and he looks at Bradley as this guy who's standing in his way and he resents it, so he goes after Bradley with a vengeance.

"And against that you have this sense of arrogance that Bradley has, this feeling that he's better than Gore. It's not a good mix."

Traficant's challenge

Democratic Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. may be the most endangered Ohio incumbent, Roll Call reports.

"Two Democrats state Sen. Robert Hagan and Mahoning County Auditor George Tablack were expected to file in what Traficant's office admits is the stiffest challenge yet in his eccentric, 16-year congressional career," said reporter Rachel Van Dongen.

"And on the Republican side, ex-Rep. Lyle Williams, 57, who lost to Traficant in 1984, planned on running against 1998 nominee Paul Alberty, who scored 32 percent of the vote, for the GOP nod."

Hastert's defense

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert yesterday vigorously defended congressional Republicans against White House charges that they are isolationists.

Referring to the "I word" and quoting George Washington, Mr. Hastert said Republicans recognized that America must be involved in a global world, but were cautious and skeptical about becoming involved in "foreign entanglements," Reuters reports.

"It has become fashionable for some to try and label the Republican Party as the party of isolationism. I believe that is wrong," Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, said in a speech prepared for delivery to a business group in Chicago.

"I believe it was poor judgment on the part of the administration to suggest that our disagreements with them are examples of isolationism," he said.

Continuing saga

The battle over the site of the Reform Party convention took another turn yesterday with Chairman Jack Gargan's ruling to hold the event in St. Paul, Minn. Even as he spoke, Vice Chairman Gerry Moan of Tucson, Ariz., said he would conduct a mail poll of national committee members and said he would sue to enforce it, if necessary.

"It's really nasty and it's probably going to destroy the Reform Party, but if you can't stand up for the rule of law and the principles of reform, there's no sense having a party anyway," Mr. Moan said.

A September vote of the executive committee put the convention in Long Beach, Calif. Minnesota Chairman Rick McCluhan and California Chairman Paul Hale conducted a second mail-in vote of national committee members in December. That one went to Minnesota.

Mr. Gargan had planned to conduct a third vote on the site yesterday. He changed his mind over the weekend when leaders with ties to Dallas and party founder Ross Perot refused the offer. Instead, after being assured by the Reform Party's rules monitor that the Minnesota site vote was valid, Mr. Gargan ruled in favor of Minnesota.

Spin patrol

Organizers of last week's Democratic and Republican presidential debates in New Hampshire posted security guards at the doors to the press room to keep out campaign spinners, the New York Times reports.

"During past debates, overeager campaign staff members would invade the room to make pitches for their candidates as harried journalists were trying to watch and write. 'They would complain because these people wouldn't leave them alone,' said Erika Mantz, a spokeswoman for New Hampshire Public Television, a sponsor of the Republican and Democratic forums [in Durham]. 'So we made the decision to keep the filing room a sterile environment.' "

Miss Mantz even had to chase out a male campaign worker wearing a female reporter's credentials, wrote reporter Peter Marks.

The big story

"Bill Bradley sent around a press release the other day charging that Al Gore's campaign proposals would overspend the federal budget surplus by $350 billion. This followed a Gore broadside that Mr. Bradley's health plan was so spendthrift it would guarantee a tax increase," the Wall Street Journal observes.

"They're both right which is the big story of this Democratic primary season," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"Dick Morris and Clintonian 'triangulation' are out; full-throated appeals to liberal interest groups are back. From health care to education to gay rights to taxes to foreign affairs, this year's two leading Democrats want to party like it's 1969."

$16 million each

The Democratic presidential contenders, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore, are beginning the year on nearly equal financial footing, each with more than $16 million on hand, the Associated Press reports, but much of it could be gone by spring.

"I see a fight to the end and then a period of silence because they'll spend so much, they won't have money left," said one campaign-finance expert, Herbert Alexander, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Southern California.

Mr. Bradley had more money in his campaign bank account at the end of the year $8.3 million, compared with $5.2 million for Mr. Gore. But the vice president was approved for more federal funds than Mr. Bradley, $11.1 million vs. $8.3 million. Since then, Mr. Bradley has asked for an additional $1.8 million and Mr. Gore $1 million.

Expensive race

Rep. James E. Rogan, the California Republican who may be the Democrats' No. 1 target because of his role as an impeachment manager against President Clinton, has raised nearly $3 million, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. Adam Schiff has $1.1 million, "double what any other House challenger in the country has raised to this point," reporter Patrick McGreevy wrote.

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