Ventura out of Reform Party

Jesse Ventura is leaving the Reform Party Friday. Are Bush supporters shifting their support to the hot new thing? Plus, Democrats are switching parties in droves and it's a mad scramble for Forbes supporters.

Published February 10, 2000 7:02PM (EST)

Newsweek reports
that Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura will announce his separation from the
Reform Party in his press conference scheduled for Friday. According to Newsweek's source the
"The only question is how he does it."

George W.'s blood in the water?

Stories are circulating about major George W. Bush backers having second thoughts. Thursday, the Washington Post reported that some members of Bush's elite fund-raising cadre, aka the Pioneers, are starting to question their horse with statements like, "We got 19 points behind and we didn't know it. That's political malpractice. But you don't necessarily change your doctor right away." Meanwhile, California Republicans may also be hedging their bets.

The Associated Press reports that former New York Sen. Al D'Amato is less sanguine. "I think he [McCain] is going to win South Carolina and he's going to carry Michigan. And then when it gets to Super Tuesday, Katie bar the door." When asked why he hasn't endorsed McCain, D'Amato responded that "there's a certain thing called keeping your word."

Man bites dog!

After his victory in New Hampshire the media went wild for McCain, and they have maintained their upbeat tempo through the current week. But Wednesday the New York Times signaled that it was moving in a more critical direction with an article headlined "McCain, Sure of Military Policy, Less Certain on Domestic Issues." Thursday it turned up the heat a notch with an article that examines the contrast between McCain's big issue of campaign finance reform and his team of donors, which is largely composed of Washington lobbyists.

What's the appeal? According to former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan it's a simple character conflict summed up in her column's title: "The Flyboy vs. the Boss's Son." The Los Angeles Times chimes in with its own field report that captures John McCain's effect on the Gen X set, as typified by 20-year-old Lauren Hardy: "He's genuine. He's happy to be here. And he's a badass."

It's the Democrats, stupid

Wednesday we brought you a link to Dick Morris' column, in which he said that the theme of this campaign is "the independents stupid." But a growing chorus reports that Democrats are switching to the GOP just because they're excited by McCain, especially in two of the key March 7 primary states: Massachusetts and California. Quick, can anyone say Bobby Kennedy?

Be like McCain

The AP reports that, aside from calling himself a reformer and producing a bushel of attack ads, Bush's major change since his weekend in the wilderness is his style on the stump. Gone is the long speech and autograph section; now it's all about emulating McCain's Q&A sessions. Apparently Bush's handlers decided that they can risk scratches and bruises when South Carolina is on the line. Bush has also begun trying to focus the race on issues like tort reform, which he talked about Wednesday -- taking the focus of the race away from political biographies and toward issues on which Bush actually has a record.

Forbes bolts, Bush and McCain rush in

Even before Steve Forbes cut his losses, the vultures had already begun to woo his supporters for endorsements. Soon after the announcement of Forbes' withdrawal Wednesday, Bush and McCain were fishing for Forbes fans.

Forbes has no immediate plans for a formal endorsement, but speculation is rife over which candidate will benefit most from his departure. Slate's Chatterbox thinks that Forbes dislikes both Bush and McCain but concludes he views McCain as more onerous.

The National Right to Life Committee heated up the South Carolina primary as it officially endorsed Bush Wednesday. The NRLC has already been running anti-McCain ads in South Carolina and promises to run more starting next Wednesday. Bush and McCain may be virtually indistinguishable on their abortion stances, but McCain's proposed ban on soft money and issue ads, like the ones he's being bludgeoned with now, has irked advocacy groups like the NRLC.

By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

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