- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2000

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who lost the Republican presidential nomination to George W. Bush, will travel to the Republican National Convention with a presidential-size press entourage.
"We're up to about 56 reporters and camera people so far," said McCain Press Secretary Todd Harris.
He said that would require one or more press buses, in addition to Mr. McCain's "Straight Talk Express."
But that is only the latest oddity in a campaign season that has been the strangest in recent memory marked, for example, by Vice President Al Gore's continuing reinventions of himself, changing seemingly everything from his hairdo, wardrobe, campaign chairman and manager to his position on guns and abortion.
"So far, I count six Gore self-reinventions," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas.
Campaign 2000 also has been marked by Mr. Gore's lag in the polls, despite a good economy, which historically gives an edge to the party that occupies the White House.
"If that continues through the November election, that would be so odd it would turn election history upside down," says conservative leader David A. Keene.
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake noted another oddity: Pat Buchanan's bolting the GOP only to fizzle as the Reform Party candidate. Mr. Buchanan is polling only 2 percent nationally in the latest bipartisan poll Miss Lake fielded with Mr. Goeas.
Then there is the emerging threat to Mr. Gore by Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who is polling as high as 7 percent in states crucial to Mr. Gore. "That's all coming out of Gore's hide," Mr. Goeas said.
"The environmentalists are down on Gore, who is an environmental nut. Now tell me that's not odd," said Republican publicist Craig Shirley.
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who recently quit the Reform Party, contributed to the odd campaign by wrestling briefly with the idea of a presidential run and telling a Playboy interviewer that he would like to be reborn as a double-D brassiere.
As for Mr. McCain, the maverick and high priest of campaign-finance reform, Republicans close to the Bush campaign said it found it indeed bizarre that Mr. McCain would ride to Philadelphia aboard the bus of his defunct campaign.
But Mr. McCain's perceived appeal to independent voters he has been campaigning avidly for fellow Republicans in Congress meant there was no effective way for the Bush campaign to stop him.
"This whole cycle has been odd, but it's not at all surprising McCain would do this," said Morton Blackwell, a Republican National Committee member from Virginia. "He was in many ways the darling of the news media and is going to continue to milk that for all it's worth."
Mr. McCain and his entourage are scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 29, before the formal kickoff of the four-day convention on July 31.
The Bush campaign said it estimates it will have between 60 and 100 reporters traveling with the Texas governor to the Philadelphia convention.
Most Republicans, citing the need for party unity, said they didn't find it odd that the Bush campaign, which controls the Republican convention just as the Gore campaign controls the Democratic National Convention, granted Mr. McCain a 10:30 p.m. prime-time speaking slot on Tuesday, the second of the convention.
What some Republicans find odd is that the McCain campaign sometimes sounds anything but defunct.
This week, for example, Mr. Harris issued a press release consisting entirely of a column by Democratic commentator Mark Shields, who argued that Mr. McCain "is today more respected and popular than both major party presidential nominees and even the president himself."
Bush loyalist Bradley S. O'Leary, seeking to keep intraparty peace, saw nothing odd in the McCain press release, which he said was meant to show "just how defeatist some leading Democrats are in their opinion of Al Gore."
Mr. Bush's own role in this campaign cycle has been odd and pleasing to Republicans from the beginning. Largely unknown outside of Texas, he entered the nomination contest late, yet instantly became the front-runner and proceeded to set all-time fund-raising records for candidates in either party.
According to the latest Federal Election Commission report, Mr. Bush had raised $85,724,403 nearly twice Mr. Gore's $47,639,987, which includes $13,961,705 in federal matching funds.
Mr. Bush also was the first front-runner of either party ever to eschew federal matching funds. He did so because he mistakenly believed his most threatening Republican rival was Steve Forbes, who was financing his campaign out of his own pocket. Mr. Forbes' aggressive 1996 nomination run against Bob Dole left Mr. Dole broke and up against federal spending limits well before the Republican nominating convention.
Learning from Mr. Dole's mistake, Mr. Bush decided to render himself as much unencumbered as Mr. Forbes by the donation limits and state-by-state primary spending caps imposed on candidates who accept federal matching funds.
But Mr. McCain turned out to be Mr. Bush's only serious rival, despite Mr. Forbes having spent $41.3 million on his campaign.
Odd, too, was religious conservative Gary Bauer's dropping out of the Republican contest to endorse Mr. McCain, who then attacked religious conservative leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell while in their home state of Virginia, on the eve of that state's Republican primary.
And on the same day last year Sept. 29 that Mr. Gore redefined himself by firing top staff and moving his campaign from Washington to Tennessee, Mr. Bauer held a press conference to deny "evil and sick" rumors that he had committed adultery with a female aide behind the closed doors of his campaign office.
Reporters said they found that exceedingly odd, since many of them, like most voters, had never heard the rumor before he brought it up at the press conference. Mr. Bauer later installed a glass door in his office. He said he didn't think it was odd, under the circumstances.

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