- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

High anxiety

"Republicans aren't hitting the panic button. Not yet. But it sure is High Anxiety Time," the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes.
"Labor Day brought the shock realization that golden boy George W. Bush could lose an idea that once seemed as weird as, well, thinking his dad could lose in 1992 despite winning the Gulf war," Miss Orin said.
"All that means (horror of horrors for Republicans) Bill Clinton could yet win the legacy war and get to gloat over a President Al Gore and a Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is riding Gore-Lieberman coattails in New York.
"So we're at one of the most intriguing times in politics: when a candidate starts slipping and battles to right himself before he's caught in a downward spiral. That's exactly where Bush is now.
"Republicans' jitters show in the flurry of rumors about a Bush campaign shakeup (highly unlikely). Another sign is how Bush is bringing in big guns like Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf … as back-up.
"Most telling is the taut, nervous look that sometimes flits across Bush's face now, replacing the Happy Warrior glow. And in the curious alchemy of success, Gore is the smile guy."

Discount the ads

"You are going to hear an awful lot about Vice President Al Gore's and Texas Gov. George W. Bush's television ads over the next couple of months, but I'll let you in on a dirty little secret of presidential races: Television advertising isn't as important as almost everyone wants you to think it is," political analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes.
"That's right in the grand scheme of things, presidential TV ads aren't particularly effective after Labor Day," Mr. Rothenberg said in a column in Roll Call.
"Media consultants and pollsters I spoke to this week all agreed that while paid ads are important in House races, which get little attention in newspapers or on TV, the race for the White House is affected much more by the 'free media,' especially news coverage.
"They note that Bush and Gore have the same amount of money to spend during the general election, and that both sides know where the race will be won and lost geographically. In the end, most of the advertising cancels itself out, as skeptical voters discount election-year promises and claims."

Looking like Dewey?

"Somebody might as well say it: George W. Bush is starting to look like the last Republican presidential candidate to be nominated in Philadelphia, Thomas E. Dewey," syndicated columnist James Pinkerton writes.
"Remember him? Like Bush today, Dewey in 1948 was the popular two-term governor of a big state (New York), up against a seemingly weak Democrat (Harry Truman). But Dewey sat on his lead, refusing to alter his smug course, even after making a careless comment against the most powerful voting bloc in the country.
"And now Bush is looking Dewey-esque, having just committed a gaffe that antagonized the most powerful group of the present day," Mr. Pinkerton said.
"In both campaigns, the critical moment was a loose comment in Illinois. On October 13, 1948, Dewey was speaking from the back of a train in Beaucoup, Ill., when the train suddenly lurched backward. 'That's the first lunatic I've had for an engineer,' Dewey exclaimed. 'He probably ought to be shot at sunrise, but I guess we can let him off because nobody was hurt.' "
"Mr. Truman seized on the remark to depict Mr. Dewey as an anti-labor elitist, and it worked," the columnist said.
"In 1948, more than a third of the work force was unionized; today, barely an eighth carry union cards. Blue collars have been superseded by white collars; it's the Information Age now. So what did Bush do? He attacked those at the cutting edge of the communications revolution the media.
"Standing on a podium in Naperville, Illinois, he called Adam Clymer, a New York Times reporter, 'a major-league [expletive].' Bush thereby reinforced what journalists already think: Democrats may disdain them, but Republicans actively despise them. And the media will make him pay."

McCain's demand

Eager to use Arizona Sen. John McCain's popularity to their advantage, Senate Republican leaders want the one-time Republican presidential hopeful to play a visible role in the party's year-end budget battle against President Clinton.

Ever the maverick, Mr. McCain laid out his own requirements yesterday for joining that fray, saying he wants to play such a role provided that final spending bills have no pork-barrel projects for lawmakers' home districts. Such items are a long-time staple of the bills, especially in election years, and Mr. McCain normally votes against many of the spending measures after distributing long, specific lists of pork to which he objects.

"Obviously, I'd like to help," Mr. McCain said in an interview with Associated Press writer Alan Fram. "But we have to go into it with clean hands. No pork, no legislative riders."

Nader's offer

As Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore squabble over debate arrangements, Ralph Nader says he'd be glad to step in. Pat Buchanan, too.
"I would be very happy to take your place on the debate roster as a pinch hitter so that the Democratic nominee does not feel so lonely before a national audience," Mr. Nader, the Green Party candidate, wrote to Mr. Bush yesterday.
Mr. Bush has agreed to participate in only one of the three debates proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates. He instead wants to meet Mr. Gore on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CNN's "Larry King Live." Mr. Gore says he will participate in the NBC and CNN debates only if Mr. Bush first commits to all three commission debates.
Not to be outdone by Mr. Nader, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan has offered to take Mr. Gore's place on NBC, the Associated Press reports.
"The American people should not be denied the right to see, up close and together, the men seeking their highest office, merely because of the juvenile antics or game-playing of the Beltway parties," Mr. Buchanan said in a letter to the show's host.

Daytime TV

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore are trading time for campaign speeches for chitchat on daytime talk shows in an effort to reach women and swing voters.
"I'm gonna go on the Regis show," Mr. Bush said with a grin Wednesday.
Which one? "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
"The daytime show," the Republican presidential candidate clarified. That would be "Live with Regis," which is sans long-time co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, who left in July.
Mr. Bush and his Democratic rival also plan appearances on Oprah Winfrey's show.
Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said the easygoing format will allow her boss to relax and reveal more of his personality.
"They reach a lot of women and swing voters who don't watch the Sunday talk shows or follow politics on a regular basis," Mrs. Hughes said.
Mr. Gore appears on "Oprah" on Monday. Mr. Bush follows a week later.

Love and laughs

The news that first daughter Chelsea Clinton is dating a Stanford University classmate who is also a White House intern insert punch line here provided a laughfest for late-night comedians.
The best of the gags? Maybe two items in CBS "Late Show" host David Letterman's list of "Top 10 Good Things About Dating the President's Daughter":
No. 10: "When the president says, 'Don't do anything I wouldn't do,' you can pretty much go nuts."
No. 7. "Any professor who fails you is looking at one mother of an IRS audit."

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or by e-mail ([email protected]).

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