Fast women, fast cars and the 2000 presidential campaign

The Bush train gains momentum, Democrats worry Gore is getting lazy and The Donald continues to have trouble picking a mate, let alone a running mate.

Published January 11, 2000 4:51PM (EST)

Roving strategist -- If George W. Bush is elected president of the United States, he may owe it all to a political philosopher and strategist named Karl. The New York Times profiles the man behind the man, Karl Rove, Bush's campaign architect and drill sergeant. The man who once forged an invitation on a rival candidate's stationery promising "free food, girls and a good time" at the candidate's headquarters and distributed hundreds of the invitations to poor and homeless people now surrounds himself with tomes by Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill. Several other members of Bush's inner circle are also mentioned.

Rove's candidate was in Michigan Monday being lectured by John McCain on the job both men are vying for. "You don't understand the role of the president of the United States," McCain told Bush as the two men sparred over competing tax cut proposals. McCain will outline his proposal in New Hampshire Tuesday.

Bush and McCain later did the political equivalent of kiss and make up, vowing with a handshake to not run negative ads against each other. Steve Forbes, meanwhile, was busy trying to extract promises from Bush, asking the governor to pledge to pick only pro-life judges and a pro-life running mate. But Bush steered clear of the mighty A word, and dodged Forbes' efforts to pin him down.

McCain, meanwhile, continued to sound like a Democrat, riffing on class warfare in America. "I'm deeply concerned about a kind of class warfare that's going on right now. It's unfortunate. There's a growing gap between the haves and have-nots in America," he said.

More bad news for McCain -- A new Newsweek poll to be released in the Jan. 17 issue will show that Bush leads all GOP candidates by a handy margin and would beat Gore in a head-to-head contest.

McCain is doing everything possible to boost his image, he immediately accepted Boston station WCVB-TV's offer for weekly one-on-one debates with G.W. but it is doubtful that Bush will want to debate given his front-runner status and proclivity to avoid contact with fellow candidates whenever politically possible. Turning Vince Lombardi's words on their head, McCain is of the school that the best defense is a good offense. Since last week's revelations that he may have interceded with the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of campaign contributors, McCain has pursued every opportunity to grab the limelight and highlight his issues.

Diehards can read the full text of the debate here.

Meanwhile ... Gore and Bradley both spent most of Monday focused on education, an issue that Gore believes he owns but that Bradley is hotly contesting with his trademark "I have bigger ideas and can think out of the box" pitch. Bradley is struggling badly in Iowa but in an interview with the Associated Press Monday he said he'd be happy with 30 percent of the vote. He's still got a ways to go, especially since U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan of the United Nations addressed Gore as "Mr. President" when the vice president was addressing the United Nations about AIDS on Monday. But some of Gore's closest advisors aren't so sure, publicly worrying about the veep becoming complacent.

White House as bachelor pad? -- In a sign that Donald Trump might be thinking more seriously about running, the New York Daily News reports that the Donald dumped his 27-year-old girlfriend, Melania Knauss. Maybe Trump was miffed by Melania's upcoming photo shoot in Talk in which she appears "clad in a bikini and sprawled across a rug bearing the presidential seal." As Trump was scrubbing his romantic life, the Jesse Ventura wing of the Reform Party completed its own version of house cleaning. Party chairman and Ventura ally Jack Gargan stole the party convention from the Perot wing and brought it to the Body's home state of Minnesota.

Despite this political triumph, it's not all smooth sailing. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that guarding the Body comes at a price. Ventura's security detail is slated to exceed its 1999 budget by about $367, 000.

The other elections -- While the media stays focused on the presidential race, the fight for control of Congress is well under way. Democrats are giddy about the prospects of retaking the House, while the Republicans are struggling to find a way to hold on to their open seats. In what may be one of the bloodiest and most expensive races of the year, Rep. Jim Rogan, R-Calif., faces a tough challenge from state Sen. Adam Schiff. Check Salon's Politics2000 Wednesday for a full breakdown of the congressional races in California.

The saying that pet owners resemble their charges holds true for Americans and their automobiles. The AP reports on the presidential candidates' first cars. Among the obvious, Trump's first car was an Austin Healy, but there were also small revelations. Pat Buchanan's first car was a DAS Kline Wande, Gore's was a Honda Superhawk 325 motorcycle and McCain's was a 1958 Corvette.

Viva the vast right-wing conspiracy -- Just when you thought it was safe to forget about impeachment, along comes another book about the dark years of the Clinton presidency. Jeffery Toobin's "A Vast Conspiracy" argues that the Hillary Rodham Clinton was right when she said there was a vast right-wing conspiracy to take down the president. Clinton opponents have already declared war on Toobin, and some are even threatening legal action and demanding that Random House pull the book from its shelves.

By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

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