No holiday on the campaign trail

Trump's meds, McCain's veteran problem and the flag that won't go away.

Published January 17, 2000 8:30PM (EST)

Democrats Bill Bradley and Al Gore celebrate Martin Luther King Day with a nap-time debate in Des Moines at the Iowa Brown-Black Presidential Forum at North High School. The event will be televised and webcast live at 6 p.m. EST on MSNBC. Perhaps the candidates could use a little bit of what MSNBC says Donald Trump got prescribed in the 1980s: "uppers." (A Trump spokesperson laughed at the idea of the Donald on stimulants.)

An estimated 20,000 South Carolinians, meanwhile, are spending the holiday at a rally organized by the NAACP to protest the Confederate flag, which currently flies above the Statehouse. The flag, along with Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, has become perhaps the most powerful political symbol yet in this presidential campaign.

As D-Day approaches in Iowa, Gore is showing Bradley what it means to be the establishment candidate, and all the advantages it entails. Though he has made racial reconciliation a focal point of his campaign, Bradley still trails Gore among black voters, particularly those in the South. Polls show Gore enjoys the support of nearly 70 percent of African-American voters. And Monday, the New York Times reports how another key Democratic bloc, organized labor, may give Gore a boost in Iowa. Gore's strength in the Hawkeye State, home of labor buddy Sen. Tom Harkin, may be part of the reason Bradley has modified his Iowa expectations, setting his goal at 30 percent of next week's vote.

But Bradley supporters, fret not. Your candidate has just secured the endorsement of The Burlington Iowa Hawk Eye! Desperate for momentum, Bradley is touting the endorsement as the lead item on his campaign Web site. Bradley spent much of Sunday talking race relations to reporters and attending a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Iowa. "If you believe you are your brother's keeper, you have to walk the talk," Bradley said. The Los Angeles Times reports that Bradley's straight-talk may be slowly eroding Gore's support among liberal Democrats.

McCain mutiny?: Not every veteran is backing John McCain. The Washington Post reports that McCain's strategy of appealing to veterans in South Carolina has hit a few snags. The paper says that McCain is being perceived as "Ted Kennedy in a flight suit."

"I put in 187 days in solitary confinement, one piece of bread and one glass of water a day ... [but] I want to know what he's going to do, not what he did," says one veteran."

GOP front-runner George W. Bush spent the weekend on CNN vowing to "redefine" the nation's relationship with China, and destroy Iraq's weapons capabilities. And the man currently in line for the bronze in the GOP primaries, Steve Forbes, vowed to keep hope alive, promising a "nice surprise" in next week's Iowa caucuses.

And while some papers are calling a Democratic takeover of the House a distinct possibility, the GOP revealed its fully loaded bankbook in San Jose this weekend. The GOP plans to spend $177 million this year, and currently has $10 million in the bank. Most of that money will be raised through soft money -- unregulated, unlimited contributions from corporate donors. So what happens to the money if McCain is the Republican presidential nominee?

Regardless, all that money cannot buy security for GOP House watchers. "Of course I'm nervous," Rep. Thomas M. Davis. R-Va., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the L.A. Times. "I think we ought to hold [the House], but you know, funny things happen along the way."

By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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