McCain's hidden treasure

McCain cleans up on the Internet, Republicans vote liberal to hurt Gore, Bradley accuses Gore of slinging mud (literally).

Published February 3, 2000 8:30PM (EST)

The headlines of the day pander to the presidential campaign. Two new polls released today show Sen. John McCain in a statistical dead heat with Gov. George W. Bush in South Carolina, a state Bush once led by as much as 40 points. Talk about a New Hampshire bounce. The Associated
Press reports that conservative Republican
supported a bill that would stop abortion protesters from being able to avoid paying fines by filing for bankruptcy. They did so in order to keep Al Gore from casting a headline-making, tie-breaking vote in the bill's favor. In New York, Gore received a phone call from Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle saying the vote could be close, so the vice president grabbed his Secret Service escort, booked a flight on a US Airways shuttle and beat Air Force 2 into Washington. The Republicans got wind of the ploy and voted to approve the measure, denying Gore the free press.

The AP also brings us news that the Senate
a $1 increase in the minimum wage on an 83-14 vote. Should it succeed, the wage hike would also probably deny the Democratic nominee another issue for the fall.

What a difference a day makes

Two new polls released Thursday show McCain now in a statistical dead heat with Bush. Those numbers will certainly add to the McCain insurgency, which the McCain campaign says is now paying real dividends. Since his rousing victory in New Hampshire, reports have been circulating that McCain's Web site
has been deluged with contributors. The AP pegs the amount raised since last
night at a cool $500,000. A McCain press release promised that all donations via the Web site would be devoted to "radio and television advertising in these important states." Slate is maintaining a running total.

Another traditionally Republican adversary beat up on McCain Wednesday, when the National Smokers Alliance began an advertising campaign attacking him for his sponsorship of a 1988 Senate bill that would have raised cigarette taxes and expand federal regulation of nicotine. Tobacco is one of South Carolina's biggest crops, so this is sure to resonate with some voters. This is at least the second PAC-funded ad campaign in South Carolina to attack McCain, the first coming from a pro-life group. Many conservative Republican PACs have thrown their money behind George W. Bush.

But McCain also won a key victory when U.S. District Judge Edward Korman forced the New York State Republican Committee to drop challenges to Steve Forbes' ballot qualifications on Long Island, and suggested that he would soon allow McCain to qualify statewide. The New York
Times reports
that Republican leaders may drop their challenge to McCain's
appearance on New York ballots for fear of stoking his
outsider image.

Bradley keeps heckling

Tuesday afternoon, the Bill Bradley campaign sent a letter to the Gore campaign requesting weekly debates between the candidates until March 7. The move was widely considered a desperation tactic from Bradley, who is looking for as much media exposure as possible. Of course, it also makes him look like a bit of a hypocrite, since he refused Gore's offer of weekly debates in January.

Bradley also demanded that the Gore
campaign apologize
for Gore supporters who reportedly heckled Sen. Bob Kerrey and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (both Bradley supporters) and threw mud-laced snow balls at them. Bradley said the "Gore people ... threw mud and I think the vice president ought to take responsibility for his campaign, he ought to take responsibility for those actions and he ought to apologize.'' Gore campaign
manager Chris Lehane responded by condemning the incident, but chided the opposition, saying, "If Senator Bradley is so concerned with mudslinging, why has he personally engaged in mudslinging the past two days?"

LaRouche returns

Perennial presidential sideshow act Lyndon LaRouche won the right to appear on the undercard in Tennessee. State election officials said that he had submitted the necessary 2,500 signatures to appear on the ballot, and LaRouche campaign officials said that he would compete on 21 state ballots. LaRouche joins John Anderson as the second 1980s also-ran competing for the bottom of the Republicrat tickets.

Bauer to take a bow?

As the rest of the candidates spread across the country, Gary Bauer retreated to his home in Virginia to contemplate withdrawing from the race. As if his 1 percent showing in the New Hampshire primary wasn't enough, AP reports that 75 percent of the signatures collected on southern Indiana petitions to get Bauer on the ballot
there may be forgeries. Bauer campaign manager Frank Cannon replied, "We're
not going to submit any of the signatures collected until we, at our own
initiative, have a careful review of all the signatures, county by county." In
the background the vultures are already descending. Wednesday six key South
Carolina conservatives who were members of Bauer's steering committee defected to
the Bush camp.

Obstinate voters?

After the New Hampshire defeat and continued hand-wringing by aides, George W. Bush arrived in South Carolina Wednesday, spinning optimistically. His quotes of choice were: "I am mentally prepared for the long haul," and "There's not going to be a bump in the road here in South Carolina. There's going to be a long, smooth highway." While Bush may focus on a long, smooth South
Carolina highway paved with money
and a well-oiled organization,
McCain's bounce into the state may
be gaining momentum.

Bush also received the endorsement of Dan Quayle, who said
Bush was the most qualified of the Republican pack, and the only one who "has the
values to be president of the United States." Both are themes that the Bush
campaign is trying to make solidly their own, since McCain's 19 point victory in
New Hampshire was built largely on the perception
of him
as the candidate who would once again bestow honor to the White House.

The $64,000 question

Thursday articles analyzing Bush's New Hampshire defeat multiplied like
. The Washington
blamed Bush's poor performance on his lack of a message while Shields
and Gigot
blamed Bush for not appearing presidential. Slate cut to
the quick and framed the Bush campaign as a speculative bubble: "People support
him because other people support him. This is what stock market analysts call a
speculative bubble. Prick the confidence and the bubble bursts." For Time, the difference
is that McCain seems "grown up."

Here's Ross!

Tuesday rumors
that Ross Perot would be leaping back into the presidential fray
on behalf of his Reform Party spawn. The Reform Party is seeing the best and the
worst of times. New Hampshire exit polls showed that 27 percent of Republican
voters would consider voting for a Reform Party candidate in the fall while 19
percent of Democrats said the same thing. But the Reform Party is still in the midst of a
terribly divisive fight over leadership. The Venturistas technically control the
party chairmanship and want to hold the party convention in their namesake's Minnesota home while the Perotistas have been lobbying hard for Long Beach,
Calif. The latest news is that both factions have agreed to meet in Las
Vegas this March to resolve their differences.

Goode is bad news for Democrats

Last week Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia announced that he was fleeing the
Democratic Party to become an independent. Since then, he's paid dues to the
Republican campaign committee, announcing that he would take a Republican seat on
the powerful House Appropriations Committee and support a Republican for speaker
in next year's Congress. The AP reports that an anonymous source also said that
Goode is expected to endorse George W. Bush for president. Many Republican
officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP that they expect Goode to
switch formally to the GOP sometime after the November elections.

By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

MORE FROM Max Garrone

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