- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

Hard to figure

"Let's see, how do I put this? Forget everything I've written about this year's presidential race. I'm no longer entirely sure that I know exactly what's going on," political analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.
After recounting the ups and downs of Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush in recent months, Mr. Rothenberg concluded: "Where does the race go from here? I don't know. Nobody does. At this point, the race looks like an agenda-setting fight, with the guy who has the best last two weeks is likely to win. But even that's just a wild guess."

Positively Clintonian

"The Bush campaign has been threading the needle of Clinton-era politics for two years now, working to soften the testosteroni image of the Republican Party so that women who stampeded to Bill Clinton's side in 1996 might be lulled into voting for the GOP again," New York Post columnist John Podhoretz observes.
"It looked like a successful political gambit until Al Gore gave his wife a French kiss at the Democratic convention and began opening up the gender gap again in his favor," Mr. Podhoretz said.
"But Bush has now hit on a brilliant new theme that's so nervy and triangulated, it's positively Clintonian.
"The theme is the 'education recession,' and Bush has been hammering away at it for almost a week. 'Tragically, over the last seven years of the Clinton-Gore administration, our nation has experienced an education recession decline and stagnation in student achievement,' say Bush campaign materials.
"The cleverness of the 'education recession' idea is how it takes two utterly dissimilar issues and combines them to create you might even say 'manufacture' a spirit of crisis that only the person who has diagnosed it can possibly cure."

Presidential ad

In a new TV ad, a pretend president wades into a real-live campaign. And like his Hollywood character, Martin Sheen is siding with the Democrats.
Handgun Control Inc. is spending about a half-million dollars to air a new campaign commercial featuring Mr. Sheen talking about Republican George W. Bush's stance on gun control.
"Should the next president be the candidate of the gun lobby?" Mr. Sheen asks, speaking to the camera with an American flag filling the background. "Should he have signed a bill that allows hidden handguns in churches, hospitals and amusement parks?"
Handgun Control asked Mr. Sheen, who plays President Bartlett on NBC's "The West Wing," after his brother, Joe Estevez, did a voice-over for a gun industry commercial.
The commercial will air in Cleveland, Milwaukee and St. Louis, all large cities in states that are important to the presidential election. It comes on the heels of a $1.4 million run in seven cities of another Handgun Control ad about Mr. Bush.
Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told the Associated Press that Mr. Bush would not be a pawn of gun owners but would base his acts on "what's right for America." And he said his boss would "reverse the trend of lax enforcement of existing gun laws by the Clinton-Gore administration."

Five-governor strategy

Texas Gov. George W. Bush has turned to five popular fellow Republican governors to put him over the top in the presidential race, the Boston Globe reports.
The governors will have a bigger say in the campaign in their states and a larger chunk of advertising money to allocate, reporter Michael Kranish writes.
"After days of deliberations much of it on how much to invest in California the Bush campaign has tentatively determined that the best chance of winning the presidency is to focus increasingly on five battleground states with popular Republican governors," Mr. Kranish writes. "They are Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan, Bush associates said."
Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson told the Globe: "This has been coming in the last two weeks. We are now very much at the forefront and we are going to be used more effectively. We've always had a role, but we are just more energized, because we know our states are on the bubble and we've got to carry them."
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft said there is now closer coordination between the governors and the Bush campaign. "They were not neglecting us, but now it is more intense," he said.
Michigan Gov. John Engler is providing the Bush campaign with specific suggestions on where to spend advertising dollars in his state. "We are trying to say this is a tight race and execution matters," Mr. Engler told the Globe.

Catholic-bashing

"The Detroit Free Press crossed the line [Wednesday] when it printed an editorial cartoon by Mike Thompson whose only purpose can be to stir up anti-Catholic resentment," National Review says on its Web site (www.nationalreview.com).
"It features a voucher and Constitution-shredding machine: 'Introducing the amazing Vouch-o-Matic! Yes, the Vouch-o-Matic! It slices, dices, chops, and shreds cherished constitutional principles!! It can suck millions out of public education while defying accountability! The Amazing vouch-o-matic blows enough smoke to blind thousands of voters! But wait! There's more! Order now and receive this wooden nickel absolutely free!! To order, rush your tax dollars to: The Roman Catholic Church c/o Kids First! Yes! Order Now!'
"Kids First! Yes! is the group behind a school-choice ballot initiative in Michigan this fall, and it's received substantial support from the Catholic Church. But to suggest the group is actually controlled by the Catholic Church or to suggest the Catholics are motivated on school choice simply because they want an infusion of tuition dollars for parochial schools is ill-considered.
"There are intelligent arguments to be made against school choice. Catholic-baiting shouldn't be part of the opposition's strategy."

The horse race

The presidential race has grown even closer, according to three national tracking polls released yesterday.
The CNN/USA Today/Gallup tracking poll had Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore in a tie 46 percent each.
The Voter.com Battleground 2000 tracking poll had Mr. Bush clinging to a 1 percentage point lead, 42 percent to 41 percent.
The Portrait of America (https://www.portraitofamerica.com) tracking poll also gave Mr. Bush a 1 percentage point lead, 43-42.

Nader on Letterman

Ralph Nader may not have been invited to next week's presidential debate, but at least he made David Letterman's show.
The Green Party presidential candidate took his spot in the hot seat on the "Late Show with David Letterman" last night, the Associated Press reported, talking about what his party stands for, the environment and his take on the two major party candidates, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.
On Mr. Bush: "George W. Bush is really a big corporation running for president disguised as a human being."
On Mr. Gore: "Al Gore's dilemma every day on the campaign trail is to figure out whether he's the 'Great Impostor' or the 'Great Pretender.' "
Mr. Nader criticized Mr. Gore's environmental record as vice president and said he didn't believe Mr. Gore would do any better as president.
Mr. Letterman asked whether a Green vote would be wasted.
"Throwing away your vote is throwing away your vote in the direction of the two major parties that have wasted our democracy, that are excluding competitors in the presidential debates," Mr. Nader replied.

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