- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2000

Gov. George W. Bush of Texas says he would return "honor and integrity" to the White House and offer Americans "a fresh start."
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, is running an ad in South Carolina that says he would be "the polar opposite" of President Clinton.
Democrat Bill Bradley says every time a president lies it "undermines his own authority and squanders the people's trust."
Such bipartisan back of the hand to a sitting president demonstrates how Mr. Clinton remains the stealth candidate the unseen foil of Campaign 2000.
In February, the nation's economy likely will set a record for the longest expansion in the nation's history, eclipsing the 106 consecutive months of growth between February 1962 and December 1969.
But Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain and Mr. Bradley cite Mr. Clinton's scandalous behavior as a reason for voters to change direction.
All of this puts Vice President Al Gore in a quandary as the campaign begins in earnest. He wants to take credit for the nation's economic boom, which began in 1991 in the final three months of the presidency of George Bush, while criticizing what he calls the president's "reprehensible personal mistake" in the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Just months ago, Mr. Gore moved his campaign headquarters to Tennessee, largely to escape Mr. Clinton's long shadow. But Mr. Clinton loomed Wednesday night as Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley met in New Hampshire for their first debate of 2000.
The first question dealt with Mr. Gore's support of Mr. Clinton during the scandal that led to the president's impeachment for lying to the courts.
"It's a sad period of our history, and I am glad it's over," Mr. Bradley said.
Mr. Gore said he "defended the office of the presidency" against Republicans who sought to inflict a "thoroughly disproportionate penalty" for Mr. Clinton's "serious and reprehensible personal mistake."
In some polls, Mr. Clinton's economic policies seem a large asset for Mr. Gore. But in others the president appears to be the vice president's albatross.
In a recent Zogby poll, 62 percent of respondents said the country is moving in the right direction and only 28 percent said the nation is on the wrong track.
But in a Pew Research poll, conducted in the summer and fall, 70 percent of respondents agreed either "mostly" or "completely" with the following statement: "I am tired of all the problems associated with the Clinton administration."
Two-thirds of respondents said they do not wish Mr. Clinton could seek a third term. Among voters who oppose Mr. Gore, 51 percent cited his close ties to the Clinton administration. Only 38 percent cited Mr. Gore's "personality and leadership abilities."
Mr. Gore crystallized his link with Mr. Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998 the day Mr. Clinton was impeached. Mr. Gore stood on the south lawn at the White House and said impeachment "does a great disservice to a man I believe will be regarded as one of our greatest presidents."
Mr. Gore's rivals are counting on guilt by association, hoping to exploit what might be called "the yuck factor".
Mr. Bush kicked off his presidential campaign in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in June, saying he will show that politics "after a time of tarnished ideals, can be higher and better."
In Virginia, where Republican primary voters go the polls Feb. 29, Mr. Bush is distributing direct mail that promises "a fresh start" for America.
In July, Mr. Bradley pitched campaign finance reform during a speech at the National Press Club. He also aimed a barb at the White House, scant blocks away.
"The trust is frayed," Mr. Bradley said. "We have to repair that trust."
Mr. Gore seeks the same voters who rallied behind the Clinton-Gore mantra in 1992 "it's the economy, stupid," and is counting on their voting their paychecks again in 2000.
"I understand the disappointment and anger that you feel toward President Clinton, and I felt it myself," Mr. Gore told a voter at Dartmouth College in October.
"I also feel that the American people want to move on and turn the page and focus on the future and not the past."

This article is based in part on wire service dispatches.

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