Campaign 2000 may not get any weirder than this: Conservative Republican
presidential hopeful Gary Bauer, vying to be the candidate of the religious
right, has called a Wednesday morning press conference to formally refute
rumors that he is having an affair with a campaign staffer.
The rumors swept through political circles like wildfire this week after
getting play in the New York Post and on Don Imus' morning radio program.
Bauer made a cryptic reference to the allegations in San Francisco Tuesday
as he outlined his foreign policy platform to the local Commonwealth Club.
At the event, he called the rumors "a distraction from ideas," and
"devastating." He later expanded upon those remarks in an interview with the San
"It's disgusting," he told the paper. "It almost makes me physically sick. My wife
and I have been married for 27 years. We have three children. I have been
loyal to her and she's been loyal to me all those years, and it is depressing that in American politics, this sort of thing can be elevated to even that rung."
Bauer said he suspects the rumors have come from another presidential
campaign. Because he's jockeying for the moral high ground, Bauer refuses to name the candidate he suspects, saying such a move would be "mud-slinging." But everybody knows where the fingers are pointing. News reports and the rumor mill have pinned Steve Forbes as the prime suspect, primarily because Bauer's national campaign chairman, Charles Jarvis,
resigned last week to work for Forbes.
The Forbes campaign referred questions about the rumors to Jarvis, who did not return phone calls.
This is not the first time rumors about rumors have haunted the Forbes campaign. This summer, the Forbes camp vehemently denied it was spreading stories about GOP Gov. George W. Bush's alleged
cocaine use to political reporters.
"We emphatically deny that anyone on the Forbes campaign has initiated a
conversation with any reporter about the issue of Bush's drug use," Forbes spokesman Greg Mueller told CNN at the time. "We are in no way engaged in pushing this drug story."
Forbes was a natural suspect when the Bush rumors emerged, because he had come under attack from Republicans in 1996 for launching stinging negative ads against fellow Republican Bob Dole during the Republican primary. Many believed the
ads wounded Dole mortally for the fall campaign against President Clinton.
It was only a matter of time before the gloves came off between Bauer and
Forbes. They are both jockeying for support among the GOP's right wing,
selling themselves as the race's bona fide conservative. Forbes has
suggested that only he has the support, and the deep pockets, to fight Bush
to the bitter end.
But Tuesday in San Francisco, Bauer criticized Forbes as a relative
newcomer to conservatism. He blasted Forbes' flat-tax proposal for giving
exemptions to corporations, and he accused Forbes of ducking Bauer's challenge
to debate economic issues.