- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2000

Horse race

Sen. Mitch McConnell, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says Rep. Rick A. Lazio, New York Republican, "obviously had a fantastic first week" in his Senate campaign against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A week ago, polls showed Mr. Lazio trailing Mrs. Clinton 46 percent to 32 percent. But a new Zogby poll, published Friday, showed Mr. Lazio enjoying the support of 44 percent of registered voters. Support for Mrs. Clinton remained at 46 percent, so the two are now in a statistical dead heat.

The New York Post trumpeted the news with a front-page headline: "Now It's a Horse Race."

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat, were asked about the fluid nature of the race on CNN's "Late Edition" yesterday.

"It's easy. We now have a Senate race between two principal party candidates. We hadn't until now," said Mr. Moynihan, who holds the New York Senate seat Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lazio are vying for. Mr. Lazio entered the race after New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani withdrew.

"Mrs. Clinton has stayed about where she was," said Mr. Moynihan, who is retiring. "And Mr. Lazio, who is an able, capable, attractive candidate, has moved right up to about where the Republican candidate was going to be. And we're going to spend the next five months fighting over the remaining 10 percent" of undecideds.

Mr. McConnell believes Mrs. Clinton has her work cut out for her because polls show "almost 40 percent of New York voters … don't like her."

"And now she's running against a candidate that has little or no negative" image with voters, he said.

Tips for Gore

Al Gore's ears were undoubtedly burning yesterday as three Democratic senators and pollster John Zogby all offered suggestions about what the vice president must do if he hopes to improve in the polls.

Mr. Zogby and Democratic Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John B. Breaux of Louisiana and Paul Wellstone of Minnesota made their observations on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"Right now, it is awfully early … but Gore is down by 6 points" vis-a-vis Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the likely Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Zogby said. "And Bush's lead is growing over the last couple of polls."

The pollster says Mr. Gore needs to win more support among independents and women, including working women. "These are groups he should be leading among," but he is not, Mr. Zogby said. In fact, "Bush is even building quite a sizable lead" among these groups, he said.

Mr. Zogby believes Mr. Bush has "been able to use his affability and steal some of these core constituencies." The Republican candidate has projected a "positive image," whereas Mr. Gore has projected a "negative image, a win-at-all-costs image."

Mr. Wellstone agrees Mr. Gore needs to make himself more likable, while Mr. Kerry says the vice president "needs to put a little more of his message out" and contrast it with that of Mr. Bush.

Mr. Breaux believes it's crucial for Mr. Gore to go after independents. The latest Zogby poll shows he's trailing Mr. Bush with independents, 43 percent to 33 percent. "Thirty-eight percent of people consider themselves as independents… . I think whoever can capture those independents can win the presidential election," Mr. Breaux said on CBS.

In the wings

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura says he could snag those much-sought-after independent votes if he entered the presidential race.

In fact, Mr. Ventura says he's the only politician in the country, who could stage an upset in November, even though he's not a candidate, has no party and does not want to live in Washington.

"I still believe strongly that I could walk in and steal this election at the 11th hour," Mr. Ventura tells Newsweek magazine. His remarks are in its June 5 issue, which hits newsstands today.

Mr. Ventura says both Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush are "too rehearsed" and "too spun" to capture the independent vote cut loose when Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, withdrew from the presidential sweepstakes.

The governor a former professional wrestler who pulled out of the Reform Party earlier this year in a disagreement over preferred presidential candidates says Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush are "who their parties think they should be to win."

"And now their parties are gonna try to spin them to be me," he told Newsweek.

Mr. Ventura said that during a recent trip to Chicago, "It was sort of scary how many people were begging me to run." But he said he would rather visit Washington than live there as president.

On "Fox News Sunday," Edward G. Rendell, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was asked about Mr. Ventura's claim that he could beat Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush. "I think he took too many hits in the ring," the former Philadelphia mayor said.

Nader vs. Buchanan

Democratic National Committee Chairman Edward G. Rendell was asked on "Fox News Sunday" about the relative strength of two third-party presidential candidates consumer advocate Ralph Nader of the Green Party and Pat Buchanan, who's seeking the Reform Party nomination.

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard pointed out that Mr. Nader is "running very strongly in California: 9 percent in one poll." He also noted that the United Auto Workers in Michigan has said "nice things" about Mr. Nader.

"Is [Mr. Nader] a much bigger threat to Gore than Pat Buchanan is to George W. Bush?" Mr. Barnes asked the Democratic Party chairman.

Mr. Rendell said he does not think so "in the end."

Right now, he said, Mr. Nader is a "lightning rod for some of the dissatisfaction that you've already talked about.

"I think, come Election Day, Ralph Nader won't get more than 2 percent or 3 percent in any state. And I think Pat Buchanan will get more than that. So I'm not concerned about Ralph Nader," said Mr. Rendell.

No, again

Pundit Bob Novak says some Republican House members from California are telling him they believe having Sen. John McCain as George W. Bush's running mate could return the White House to Republicans in November.

"They feel that, in their state, the presidential election of 2000 could determine who's elected president, because reapportionment could determine the makeup of the House of Representatives for the next decade," Mr. Novak told Mr. McCain Saturday on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields."

Mr. Novak also told Mr. McCain California Republicans "really believe that you being on the ticket could make the difference between victory and defeat in California."

"Considering that … would you, at least, reconsider your decision not to even leave open the possibility of being considered for vice president?" Mr. Novak asked the Arizona Republican, who defeated likely presidential nominee George W. Bush in seven GOP primaries.

"I would obviously prefer not to, Bob," Mr. McCain replied.

The senator noted he will be out in California this week and will be campaigning for the congressional candidates. "Yes, there's a 10-seat swing possibly with reapportionment. I believe that California can be won by the Bush campaign," Mr. McCain said.

He went on to say that "despite all the hype, who the running mate is really doesn't matter that much at the end of the day in elections."

Mr. Novak was still pondering Mr. McCain's statement that he "would prefer not to run" for vice president. "Did I just detect a sliver of an opening?" the syndicated columnist asked.

"No, no," the senator said.

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