Nashua, we have a problem

The seven surviving presidential candidates focus on New Hampshire as Campaign 2000 enters a critical stage.

Published January 26, 2000 4:00PM (EST)

All candidates will debate at the WMUR studios in
Manchester, N.H., Wednesday night. The five remaining Republicans will go from 7 to 8:30 p.m. EST;
the two Democrats from 9 to 10 p.m. You can catch the action live on CNN.

And then there were seven ...

Fresh off their Iowa bounce, or amid their face-saving spin, the candidates
descended upon New Hampshire Tuesday, attending a full slate of town meetings
and releasing a new batch of television ads. But they all had to contend
with the ultimate electoral challenger, Mother Nature, who wreaked havoc on
campaign events across the Granite State. Alan Keyes, fresh
off his strong third-place
in Iowa, missed a scheduled campaign fund-raiser. Poor Orrin Hatch
couldn't even drop out of the race due to inclement weather. He gave his bon voyage speech and endorsement to Bush Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, Bill Bradley was forced to cancel
an event and John McCain's bus slid off the road. Metaphors, anyone?

While in South Carolina stumping for her son, Barbara Bush gave a first draft of the
Bush concession speech for New Hampshire. "South Carolina is a pivotal
state," she said. "I think you will decide who the next Republican nominee for president
will be." Apparently, the former first lady was not convinced that her son's
big, five-vote victory over Steve Forbes in the Alaska straw poll would
translate into New Hampshire momentum.

And in this corner...

Not all the winners of the Iowa caucuses were
Democrats or Republicans. According to Pat Buchanan's Internet Brigade,
Pat's issues dominated the election and hence validated his principles, giving him all the energy he needs to sweep the nation come November. Meanwhile, the warring
factions of Buchanan's new party tried to
bury the hatchet, while potential Buchanan challenger John
unloads his critique of American society Wednesday morning at
the National Press Club in Washington.

The dreaded "A" Word

Bush's strategy appears to be a smother-them-with-optimism offensive ... and
stay above the fray. It'll be interesting to see if he'll be able to stay
out of the fights that Keyes and Forbes will provoke from the right and the
centrist comparisons that McCain
will solicit.

One tangible effect of Forbes' and Keyes' strong Iowa showing was the reemergence
of abortion
as a campaign issue. A
rejuvenated Forbes
hit the front-runner on the abortion issue,
which is exactly what Bush and McCain do not want to be talking about.
Buoyed by a front page editorial in the conservative Union
Forbes tried to keep "Big Mo" revving through the blizzard
conditions in New Hampshire. Was Iowa the wake-up call that the right wing
of the GOP needed? Perhaps. "With our good showing in Iowa, we are confident that
Bush, the liberal, will come in No. 3," Forbes campaign manager Bill Dal Col

McCain was continually asked about his position on abortion Tuesday, and unlike
Bush, McCain said that he favored changing the Republican platform so that
its call for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion would include
exceptions for cases involving rape, incest or the life of the mother. Last
week, Bush said that he was OK with the language in the party's platform,
but Monday he did tell CNN's Larry King that he supports the same exceptions
as McCain. McCain, who skipped the Iowa caucuses to focus on New Hampshire,
is banking
on Tuesday night's vote. Pollster John Zogby says McCain must not
only win New Hampshire, but win big.

And while Bush is now forced for the first time to run as though he's in a Republican primary, Gore is using a general election attack against the GOP
front-runner, saying Bush is "against a woman's right to choose. There is
no mistaking that." Gore added: "Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell both vouched for his private assurances on this issue, so it shouldn't be surprising," the Times reported.

Gore's Democratic rival, meanwhile, is
playing catch-up in New Hampshire, a state in which he once led but now trails the
vice president in many polls. Matt Cooper, Time's Washington bureau chief,
called Bradley's revised
goal of 30 percent
in Iowa "ridiculous," adding, "You put a dead dog on
the ballot and you'll break 30 percent." Wednesday's final televised debate
between Bradley and Gore could be crucial in this primary, which has now
become a must-win
for the former senator.

meanwhile, likened the vice president to Tony Soprano, while
glossing the Bush clan as "the WASP Corleones." Those who do not abide by
the Bush code -- either you're with us or you're not -- may find themselves
summering with the fishes.

Webcasting for dollars

In what was certainly the most unusual
campaign e-mail of the day, McCain announced a new fund-raiser for the
technologically savvy. For those willing to pony up a bit of cash, McCain
has scheduled a "cyber-conference," an event his campaign is calling "an
exciting new experience, unequalled on the Internet." The conference will
be held on Feb. 10 from 9 to 10 p.m. EST. "For a
contribution of $100, you'll be able to link to this exciting event, ask me
questions via our online message center, view live video, see pictures and
charts from my campaign and participate in real-time polling on a number of

New York ballot update

In a true case of "I'll
hold your hat" politics,
New York Democrats are preparing to intercede
on McCain's behalf to get him on the ballot to promote as much discord as
possible among the state's GOP. The state party has tried to clear the
field, and the ballot, for Bush, but the Dems are now "injecting a new level of
partisanship into what had largely been a family feud among Republicans."

By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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