A circular firing squad

Bush drowns in recriminations while McCain assembles a new governing coalition without Nancy Reagan and Bradley complains that he's not getting his due.

Published February 24, 2000 8:07PM (EST)

The Bush camp is drowning in recriminations after Tuesday's losses in Michigan and Arizona, but a rising chorus of politicians and party leaders is telling them not to panic and to remember that the next wave of primaries should highlight George W. Bush's natural advantages, Republicans. But even Bush men are voicing doubts: Massachusetts Gov. Argeo Cellucci sees trouble ahead for Bush in his state, and he's the state campaign chairman. Others are wondering why Bush spent so much money in Arizona and made an appearance at Bob Jones University. The Associated Press quoted Connecticut Gov. John Rowland calling the appearance "stupid."

As if defeat wasn't enough to worry about, the Bush campaign now also has money on its mind. In the Washington Post's estimation, Bush's campaign coffers may be down to $10 million. With matching funds John McCain has $9 million. That's the first time the campaigns have been anywhere near financial parity, and McCain probably has a good fund-raising boost coming. All of this turmoil is apparently having an effect on the campaign's press releases. Today's release trumpeting Bush's broadcast of a Spanish ad in Southern California closed by misspelling the candidate's name: "Paid for by Bsuh for President, Inc."

McCain unveils his governing coalition

Now that he has won the Democratic and independent vote and needs to win big in closed primaries, McCain is turning back to his party and asking for its vote. While campaigning in Washington Wednesday he laid out his strategy for the road ahead. "I'm a proud conservative Republican. I am a Reagan Republican -- have no doubt about that. I have to convince and tell our Republican Party establishment: It's great over here. Come on in. Join us. Join us in this effort to be an inclusive party. Join us in this effort to reach out." In short, McCain's trying to convince Republicans that he can be like Ronald Reagan -- except this time around, he's bagged Reagan Democrats before the general election. Later in the day he reiterated the message, just in case no one got the hint: "What I'm proving to them is that I'm forming a governing coalition."

McCain can't get Nancy Reagan to join the "crusade"

Despite their best efforts McCain staffers have not been able to wring an endorsement from Nancy Reagan. The Conservative News Service reports that she has reiterated her position and will not endorse a Republican candidate this year. The CNS also reports that prominent pollster John Zogby and columnist Dick Morris believe that the Republican nomination will be decided on the convention floor in Philadelphia this August.

Democrats just can't get any respect

Despite their best efforts neither Bill Bradley nor Al Gore is getting any media respect this year. To start with, there isn't much personality in the Democratic race and the level of conflicting rhetoric is slight compared with the bombast against the Democrats that McCain manages to produce daily. After McCain's recent comments that he is going to "beat Gore like a drum" and that he is "Gore's worst nightmare," the best response Gore could muster about the Republican candidates was that "they echo one another in their efforts to attract the extreme right wing." Gore is probably just trying to stay out of the Republicans' mud-wrestling match. "I'm concentrating on the Democratic semifinals, and we'll let the Republicans settle their disputes among themselves," he said.

Bradley accuses Gore of intellectual-property theft

Meanwhile, as one reader said, Bradley is busy being Bradley, complaining about how Gore is stealing his ideas and thunder. "I'll propose something and soon as people think it's a good idea, he'll propose the same thing. It's 'me too.' This act today is not leadership, it is followership." Complaining has been fundamental to Bradley's campaign because he doesn't want to run the usual media-hyped and character-obsessed campaign, though that's one of the things that breed success in this frequently criticized system. For proof he need only look across the aisle to his old opponent, McCain, who managed to either win or steal New Hampshire from him.

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"I need an event. I should hold up a bank." Bradley discussing the lack of media attention to his campaign.

On the trail

Bush returns home to Austin for some time with that soft pillow. McCain has a pair of appearances in California before heading home for his own R&R. Bradley makes a foray into Washington while Gore continues his swing up the East Coast into New York.

By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

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