George W. hears footsteps

McCain makes Bush backers in New York nervous, while Bradley goes to the bench hoping for some last-minute heroics.

Published February 11, 2000 12:46PM (EST)

In the latest of what seems to be a series of stories, more supporters of George W. Bush are sharing their anxieties with the press. Thursday, the Washington Post reported an uneasiness among Bush's core fund-raisers in Texas, while Salon highlighted post-New Hampshire skepticism in California. Friday, the New York Times discussed Bush's McCain migraine in the Empire State. To capitalize on this momentum, John McCain held a fund-raiser in Washington Thursday night, giving some lobbyists who may have bet on Bush an opportunity "to double-down on McCain," in the words of McCain spokesman Dan Schnur. This comes even as recent polls show that the new street-fighting Bush has regained his lead in South Carolina.

Meanwhile, pinched-lipped political columnist Charles Krauthammer breaks ranks from other conservatives by suggesting a McCain-Bush ticket in November. His reasoning: "It would win."

Campaign faux pas

Campaigning in the battleground of upstate New York, Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton may have committed an unforgivable sin: She stiffed her waitress. After chowing down scrambled eggs Tuesday at a local diner in the hamlet of Albion, Clinton apparently failed to leave a tip after the diner comped her meal. Under the headline "Hillary Stiffs a Single Mom," the Washington Times reported that it's all the locals have talked about since.

March madness

Well, it always used to work for the Chicago Bulls, so why not for Bill Bradley? Whenever they were in a pinch, or felt the game slipping away, the Bulls could always rely on No. 23 to come through in the clutch. With his campaign in desperate need of a spark, Bill Bradley will call on His Airness, Michael Jordan, to bail him out. The Bradley campaign expects to air an ad in 25 cities where Democratic primaries will be held March 7, hoping desperately that voters will want to be like Mike. The ad features Jordan talking about Bradley's vision for solving the nation's race and poverty issues, with the kicker: "That's why I'm supporting Bill Bradley. Shouldn't you?"

Nashville nitty-gritty

The Reform Party civil war comes to a head this weekend, with the Northern and Southern factions drawing their lines in the sand. Gov. Jesse Ventura has scheduled a press conference in Minnesota Friday at which, according to various reports, he will quit the Reform Party. One source close to Ventura told Trail Mix he expects the press conference to be a sort of public threat to the Ross Perot faction of the party, and that Ventura's ultimate Reform future will be determined by what goes down in Nashville this weekend. That's where the Perot and Pat Buchanan forces will try to depose Ventura ally Jack Gargan as party chairman, before turning on each other for the battle over the party.

Outrageous fortune

Meanwhile, debate rages over just how much money Steve Forbes actually spent on his five-year run for the presidency. In one final feat of spin, Forbes maintains that, whatever the final tally may be, it was the same amount you'd spend for a couple of Super Bowl ads, and that he used his money to change the Republican Party's political discourse. A final dollar figure should be available at the end of the month, when Forbes files his campaign statement with the Federal Election Commission.

Meanwhile, in Washington ...

The tradition of serve-and-volley politics continued Thursday, with both major parties spoon-feeding issues to their presumptive presidential nominees. First, it was President Clinton, outlining Al Gore's platform in his State of the Union address last month. Thursday, it was the House, passing a tax cut for married couples favored by Republicans that Clinton has already promised to veto.

Out on the trail

McCain spent his day sounding like Bob Dole, pushing for school vouchers and denouncing the power of teachers unions in blocking education innovations. But he found time to blast the Bush campaign for "push-polling," a nefarious practice of tearing down your political opponent by asking seemingly innocent questions as if it were a normal telephone poll. One South Carolina woman said her 14-year-old son, who idolizes McCain, was in tears after receiving a call from a person calling the Arizona senator a "cheat, a liar and a fraud." The Bush campaign denied that anyone from its camp made the call.

Gore, meanwhile, stopped by to see Jay Leno for an appearance on "The Tonight Show." But Leno didn't change his shtick for the occasion, making a perfunctory Gore robot joke in the show's opening monologue: "Computer hackers actually shut Al Gore down for two hours," Leno quipped.


McCain was pulled away from campaigning briefly Thursday by an overzealous South Carolina state trooper. The campaign bus was pursued by a police cruiser, lights flashing, and asked to stop, all so the trooper, Michael O'Donnell, could meet McCain, the Associated Press reports. "When I was in high school in 1989 I had written to him, and I wanted to meet him," O'Donnell said. Unfortunately for O'Donnell, the candidate was on another bus, and all the trooper got was a bunch of campaign aides and scribbling reporters.

McCain aides asked the trooper for his phone number so McCain could meet him at another time, but the incident will be investigated by the state Public Safety Department's internal affairs division.

Tort reform crusaders

Bush is certainly not alone in his crusade for tort reform. The Austin American-Statesman reports that a group of Republican attorneys general is raising big bucks from corporate donors to help elect other attorneys general who will not pursue big lawsuits against big companies, like the recent suit brought against the tobacco industry. Of the country's 43 elected attorneys general, only 12 are Republicans, something the group is trying hard to change. "A bonus for the donors is that the contributions to the Republican Attorneys General Association are untraceable to the public," the paper reports.

By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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