Bush's Yom Kippur

Dubya undergoes a spiritual cleansing at the Simon Wiesenthal Center; McCain comes face-to-face with activists in California.

Published March 6, 2000 9:12AM (EST)

A day before his advisors expect him to wrap up the Republican presidential
nomination, Texas Gov. George W. Bush toured the Museum of
Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The message was
delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer -- Bush was atoning for
his sins at Bob Jones University and in South Carolina.

The Wiesenthal tour is the clearest sign that Bush is struggling to fit into
the compassionate conservative outfit which he wore to his coming out ball last spring.
But Bush was still fielding questions about Bob Jones at a Monday morning town
hall meeting in San Diego.

"I missed an opportunity in retrospect," Bush
said, "I missed an opportunity to say we're all God's children." Bush
tried to manufacture another opportunity to do just that Monday, and
clearly the Bush campaign feels the best way to erase Bob Jones from public
memory is to highlight the religious flap John McCain created when he criticized
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson
in Virginia last Monday. "I think he's
trying to show a contrast between himself and what Sen. McCain did last
week when he castigated people based on their religious beliefs," said Bush
communications director Karen Hughes. "Gov. Bush's mission is to unite
people, and to be tolerant of people of all faiths," Hughes said. (By Anthony York)

McCain's cautious optimism

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- On board the "Straight Talk Express" Monday morning, a cautiously optimistic McCain seemed in better spirits for the first time since his wins in Michigan and Arizona. "The last three days we've had the initiative," says McCain, saying that anti-McCain ads paid for by millions in soft money by Texan Sam Wyly (one of "Gov. Bush's sleazy Texas buddies," as McCain put it) have "handed us back the reform issue."

At Santa Clara University, McCain joked around with reporters and staffers, referring to a "surge" that was changing the momentum of the election in his favor. "[McCain media strategist Mike] Murphy felt [the surge] first this morning when he fell out of bed," McCain chuckled. The good news of the day touted by McCain's staff was a New York Post poll showing their candidate gaining speed in New York.

When asked how much his critical remarks about Robertson and Falwell last week would effect Tuesday's results, McCain said he had no idea. "How much will it have had to do with my 'flip' remark about 'evil,' or my statements to the San Francisco Chronicle [about overturning Roe vs. Wade]?" "Will it have had to do with any of the idiotic remarks I've made during the campaign?" It's been a "high-wire act," he said. "We haven't fallen off the wire, but we've certainly been hanging on by our fingers on occasion." (By Jake Tapper)

California crackpots

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Every state has its own distinctive type of activist. In New Hampshire, they are feisty and flinty. South Carolina's are conservative and, to put it charitably, "old school." And in California, they're fully engaged and occasionally a bit wacky. Ever since McCain's plane touched down in Oakland on Sunday, he's been besieged by sign-carrying Bay Area protesters and supporters.

One dogged San Franciscan named David Miller protested McCain's participation in the Vietnam War. "In the mid-1960s you traveled 8,000 miles to a foreign country that meant no harm to you," reads Miller's flyer, addressed to McCain. "You flew a high-powered war machine that rained down destruction and death on a poor civilian population."

Miller says he served two years in federal prison for burning his draft card on Oct. 15, 1965, in New York. Still, despite Miller's charges against what he calls the "wrongfulness" of McCain's participation in the Vietnam War, he asked McCain for a meeting, saying "we are alike in that we both stood up for our beliefs to the point of considerable inconvenience."

The same, Miller said, could not be said for Bush, "who, when called, hid from combat in his home state."

Other protesters criticized McCain's use of the word "gooks" to describe his North Vietnamese torturers during his five-and-a-half years as a POW and his position on various California ballot initiatives, from a campaign finance reform (he's for it) measure to one outlawing same sex marriage (he's for it). (By Jake Tapper)

The McCain campaign was riding high with its victory in Michigan but stumbled in the wake of McCain's speech denouncing the leadership of the religious right. Salon investigates his campaign's own errors and the mud storm from his opponent.

A new analysis of outstanding absentee ballots shows that McCain may end up winning Washington state.

New York media loves McCain

The New York Times and the New York Daily News endorsed McCain for the Republican nomination Sunday.

Super Tuesday prep work

The weekend saw Bush and McCain making their final passes at the Tuesday electorates.

While McCain desperately needs a good show of support to continue his campaign, he may have scared off some California voters with his denunciation of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

McCain demonstrated continued frustration with the recent pair of Bush ads when he raised the heat of his campaign rhetoric a notch Sunday and accused Bush of assuming Bill Clinton's tactics from the 1996 election. "It's so Clintonesque, it's scary. Raise the soft money. Run the attack ads. They're
getting more and more like the Clinton campaign. They'll say anything."

Bush is hoping to capture the whole enchilada in California. He knows that New England is a write-off and that New York will be split, but he wants both California's delegates and its popular vote.

Further proof that Bill Bradley has lost the race for the Democratic nomination arrives in the form of Al Gore's latest attack on Bush. It appears that Gore is already looking beyond Super Tuesday in suggesting that all the special-interest money pouring into the race for Bush may taint the outcome.

But the question remains, is such a compressed primary process good for democracy?

What does Pat Buchanan have to do with St. Patrick?

St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland; Pat Buchanan drove the snakes out of Washington. So says Buchanan's Internet brigade Web site.

Poll positions

In a Super Tuesday special, here are the latest polls state by state (among likely Republican primary voters):

California: Bush 27.4 to McCain 20.9 percent (Zogby)

Connecticut: McCain 43 to Bush 41 percent (Zogby)

Georgia: Bush 56 to McCain 28 percent (Zogby)

Georgia: Bush 54 to McCain 34 percent (Mason-Dixon Polling)

Maryland: Bush 55 to McCain 32 percent (Zogby)

Massachusetts: McCain 59 to Bush 32 percent a (Zogby)

Massachusetts: McCain 59 to Bush 29 percent (University of Massachussetts)

Missouri: Bush 47 to McCain 35 percent (Zogby)

New York: Bush 45 to McCain 39 percent (Zogby)

New York: Bush 45 to McCain 44 percent (Mason-Dixon Polling)

Ohio: Bush 56 to McCain 32 percent (Zogby)

Ohio: Bush 54 to McCain 35 percent (Mason-Dixon Polling)

By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

MORE FROM Max Garrone

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