"Cheers" and Jeers
In addition to schlepping in such party hacks as Sen. Tom Harkin and Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, the Gore campaign brought in actors Ted Danson and his wife and longtime Clinton friend Mary Steenburgen to campaign. Danson, best known from his role as Sam Malone on "Cheers," appeared at the local "Cheers" bar in Concord, while Steenburgen stuck with Tipper. Not to be outdone, GOP front-runner George W. Bush had scheduled country superstar Travis Tritt to perform at an event, but those plans fell through.
An endorsement did come through when a certain former president decided to weigh in. "This boy, this son of ours, is not gonna let you down," said former President George H.W. Bush as he and former first lady Barbara Bush stood by their son. The former president cut his remarks short because the event -- according to Bush press aide Mindy Tucker -- made him "emotional." Other big names coming out for Bush in the last few days included 1996 vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, and former New Hampshire governor and Bush White House chief of staff John Sununu - who George W. Bush had once helped oust from his White House job. Reacting to the supporters, Bush rival John McCain said, "It's almost entertaining, this panic that seems to have set in down there." McCain described a scene of Bush staffers panicking: "'Get another endorsement! Who's another lobbyist that we can get to endorse us?'" (JT)
Fleecing his staff
Not long ago, Bush appeared at a press event underneath a mural of Jesus. The self-proclaimed born-again governor was featured in some lovely shots with his favorite political philosopher/thinker, shots that went over very well with a cotillion of Bush staffers who engage in regular Bible study. In fact, the image appeared on the cover of one press aide's notebook -- a photo of her two favorite men. In a more official style statement, the Bush campaign has been outfitted in blue "Bush for President" fleece jackets, complete with stitched nicknames. Press aide Megan Moran is "Shmegan," newly-engaged press aide Jill Foley is "The Bride," and press aide Mindy Tucker is "Mindy-Me," a nod to the popular if creepy character from one of the governor's favorite movies, "Austin Powers II: The Spy Who Shagged Me."
At a local event run by the Lifetime television network, GOP Christian activist Gary Bauer offered Democrat Bill Bradley some encouraging words. Bradley, who has been slamming Gore in speeches and on TV for a number of clearly pro-life votes the veep made earlier in his congressional career, was told by Bauer, an ardent pro-lifer, that he was correct. "Back in Washington in a drawer I have a bunch of letters from Al Gore telling me that he's pro-life," Bauer later told reporters. Gore has said that the only real issue he's changed his opinion on is federal funding of abortions. But the evidence to the contrary -- his support for a 1977 amendment declaring that abortion "takes the life of an unborn child that is a living human being"; a constituent mailing in 1987 characterizing abortion as being "arguably the taking of a human life" -- suggests otherwise. (JT)
"Comedy" buzz kill
Comedy Centrals's "Turning the Tables" event, part of the network's "Indecision 2000" coverage, at the Manchester Holiday Inn Saturday night was the event to be at in chilly Manchester -- whatever that's worth. In an event so sporadically entertaining so as to guarantee that it will never be broadcast in its entirety, media celebs like Time editor in chief Walter Isaacson, NBC's Claire Shipman, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, and ABC's Sam Donaldson were grilled by pols like former Iowa Rep. Fred "Gopher" Grandy, Bradley speech writer Richard Stengel, former Reps. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., and Pat Schroeder, D-Colo. Host Jon Stewart was hilarious, if hampered by guests who were simply more C-SPAN than HBO. The party afterwards was an event to see and be seen, featuring more media big feet, like Chris Matthews, New Hampshire Republican-then-Independent-then-Republican Sen. Bob Smith, and numerous lovely young political staffers trying to sidle up to the engaged Stewart. The inevitable buzz kill: in New Hampshire, bars close at 1 am. (JT)
It's the typical pre-event chaos at the Newport Opera House Friday night. Outside, a die-hard group of college-aged supporters brave single-digit temperatures and invent pro-Bradley cheers on the fly. Inside, Bradley staffers are barking at each other, as the candidate himself fights his way through the horde of reporters at the back of the room. Some are pecking away at their laptops as TV cameras are scooted into position. Bill Bradley has to go to the bathroom. The men's room full, Bradley ducks into the women's, and an aide trailing the former senator quickly blocks the door. "That's the shot right there," I say with press secretary Eric Hauser. "Bill Bradley coming out of the ladies' room." "He's just in there fixing the plumbing," Hauser says. "He's a handy guy. That's our story and we're sticking to it."
On the Bradley campaign bus Friday, en route to Lebanon, reporters are doing what thy usually do -- reading through the morning papers, exchanging anecdotes and one-liners -- when suddenly they sense action. Quickly, two busloads of reporters pour out into the street and jaywalk across a busy thoroughfare during morning rush hour to watch Bill Bradley perform that most essential of political acts -- buying a doughnut. Within seconds, Dunkin Donuts is occupied territory. TV lights blaring, flash bulbs popping, huge feathered boom mikes stuck in the face of the unsuspecting counter boy. After a brief fight over payment (the counter boy finally caved and took the candidate's money), Bradley worked the room, shaking hands of coffee drinkers huddled inside this linoleum and florescent shack on a sub-freezing Friday morning. Bradley moved outside, rapping on windows of cars stuck in the drive-through line. One woman in a black Land Rover seemed almost reluctant to roll down her window, an "all I wanted is a doughnut" look on her face, not uncommon among locals here every fourth January. At long last, when she reaches the order sign, a voice from inside offers a bit of advice: "Smile for the cameras, honey." (AY)