The negativity defense

Bradley attacks as Gore basks in the establishment's glow, while McCain just can't get a break.

Published January 28, 2000 6:00PM (EST)

If Wednesday highlighted John McCain and Bill Bradley's disproportionate support from New Hampshire newspaper endorsements, Thursday brought out the establishment support for George W. Bush and Al Gore. The Bush campaign announced four new endorsements, ex-vice presidential candidate and flat-tax popularizer Jack Kemp, retired Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Charles C. Krulak, and a delegation from Connecticut that included the governor, lieutenant governor, and 69 of 72 Republican legislators, along with a large delegation of Delaware's Republican legislators.

Gore's big endorsement came from none other than President Clinton whose State of the Union address contained proposals that couldn't help but raise Gore's standing. A proposed $350 billion tax cut could come in handy if Gore gets to face off with the Republican nominee. Gore also received 89 minutes of free TV time, the sort of media presence money can't buy. Bradley and McCain, did pick up the endorsement of the Boston Herald, which said that Bradley had "remained true to his beliefs, speaking his mind on a host of issues" while McCain had the potential to bring his "transforming experience" and "sense of purpose" into politics.

Generalissimo Bradley?
Trying to fire up his fighting spirit, Bill Bradley turned into the wind and announced, "Last night I decided I'd had it. We're going to call my opponent on what he's been doing." Thursday afternoon, publicly and through campaign press releases, Bradley let loose. In one release the Bradley campaign focused on Gore's veracity, stating, "during last night's debate he [Gore] misrepresented the truth on at least seven occasions," and went on to dissect Gore's statements on everything from campaign-finance reform to health care and foreign policy. Later, he claimed Gore misled voters on his abortion rights record, and then accused him of distorting Bradley's support of gays and lesbians. Among the contested figures: the number of openly gay delegates on Bradley's New York state slate (Gore claimed 5, Bradley says he 7).

For the most part, though, the script is getting pretty familiar. On the stump, Bradley continued to constantly hammer Gore by asking, "If you don't care about the people enough to tell them the truth in a campaign" then how do we know he will tell the truth once elected. Gore then reverts to his "I know you are, but what am I?" defense, saying: "I don't quite understand how someone can condemn so-called negative attacks while in the next breath launching real negative attacks."

Thursday night a New York judge kicked McCain off the ballot in 8 upstate congressional districts. That leaves McCain on just 18 of the state's 31 ballots, though he has filed a formal appeal before a federal judge, who may begin reviewing the case immediately and rule within a month. Forbes' lawyers were busy alleging that many signatures on Bush petitions were copied.

Osborne rushes, Hillary gets pinned
Outside the presidential race, Republicans have recruited yet another Midwestern football star to run for Congress. Thursday, former Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne announced that retirement left him feeling "a bit under-challenged" and that he would run for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Bill Barrett. And the Associated Press reports that artist David Freeman, who produced a popular Rudy Giuliani voodoo doll before Christmas, is now selling a companion version of Hillary Clinton. The doll comes complete with a starter set of five pins.

By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

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