V.P. hopes and racist jokes

New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman tags along with George W. Bush and basks in the speculation spotlight, while a Democratic Senate candidate from Jersey gets into hot water.

Published March 30, 2000 12:00PM (EST)

Papers continue to fill the void left by the virtual end of the presidential primary season by focusing on the veepstakes. Thursday, the New York Times gives New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman the treatment, after she followed Bush on a campaign swing through her state.

The Associated Press reports that Bush will not give his vice presidential candidates a litmus test on abortion. In an appearance with the pro-choice and much-rumored-about V.P. candidate Wednesday, Bush said, "We disagree on some aspects of the issue . . . That doesn't mean we can't be pulling for the same thing, being on the same team, and I respect Governor Whitman's views and I respect her as a person." The AP noted that Bush was "reaching out to women and political moderates," but cited Steve Salmore, a Republican political analyst,
as saying that Whitman probably won't be Bush's V.P. choice because "she has become a symbol for many people of the pro-choice Republicans. I think it would make that issue a major issue of division at the convention, and I don't think George Bush needs that."

Gebhardt vs. Gephardt

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt has seen the enemy, and the enemy is Richard A. Gebhardt. Gebhardt filed papers with the Missouri secretary of state's office to run against Gephardt in the Democratic primary in Missouri's 3rd District. Gebhardt, who some local GOP activists have fingered as a Republican, had originally filed in the 2nd District, leading state Democratic Party leaders to charge the GOP was engaging in "dirty tricks," a charge the state Republican Party leadership denied.

State GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner said that if the GOP was really engaged in dirty tricks, "we would have filed this guy in the 3rd," against Gephardt. The next day, Gebhardt did just that.

Sources close to Gephardt suspect that one of his GOP opponents put Gebhardt up to the stunt. Gebhardt could not be reached for comment.

In a last-minute effort to help avoid confusion, Gephardt added his nickname, Dick, to the ballot to differentiate himself from his opponent with the similar moniker.

Gephardt spokesman Ed Rhode called the development "unbelievable" in a conversation with Salon Wednesday, but said he had "faith that the voters will see through the Republicans' dirty tricks. This campaign should be about fighting for the people of the 3rd Congressional District, not about confusing voters."

When asked if Gephardt's new campaign slogan would be focused on spelling, Rhode said, "It's going to have to."

Another Clinton rebuke from the bench

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth issued a ruling Wednesday that President Clinton and top White House officials committed a crime in 1998 when they released letters written to the president by Kathleen E. Willey, who had accused him of fondling her, reports the Washington Post. "The release of the Willey letters was a criminal violation of the Privacy Act," Lamberth wrote. Such a violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.

Welcome to politics, Mr. Corzine

New York isn't the only Northeastern state with a Senate race wrapped in controversy. Millionaire Democrat Jon Corzine, who is seeking the Democratic Senate nomination from New Jersey, is getting an early lesson in bad press. Corzine has come under fire from Emanuel Alfano, chairman of the Italian-American One Voice Committee, who says Corzine made offensive remarks against Italian-Americans, including one about a prominent Italian-American leader's making "cement shoes."

According to the New York Times, "Alfano called Mr. Corzine's remarks outrageous, saying they demonstrated 'a clear pattern of insensitivity and prejudice.'"

But the New York race continues to generate heat. The official e-mail list for Rudy Giuliani's unofficial Senate campaign moved quickly to try to stop the bleeding from the political controversy surrounding the shooting of Haitian immigrant Patrick Dorismond -- including continued attempts to link Hillary Rodham Clinton to Al Sharpton. Though some polls earlier this week showed Clinton moving ahead of Giuliani for the first time, a new Marist College poll released Thursday showed Giuliani clinging to a slight lead. And his Web team made sure everybody on the e-mail list saw the poll.
"Even after weeks of being attacked by Hillary Clinton's divisive negative campaigning, Mayor Giuliani continues to hold the lead in the race for U.S. Senate," the e-mail said. "In fact, it looks like Mrs. Clinton's negative attacks are backfiring: her unfavorability rating soared 9 points, and the number of people concerned that she's a carpetbagger to New York grew to a four-month high." But as the New York Times points out, Giuliani's 3-point lead is within the poll's margin of error.

Giuliani spent his evening at a fund-raiser for George W. Bush, which netted more than $500,000 for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. The event marked the first time since the divisive New York primary that Bush, Gov. George Pataki and the mayor were in the same room together, though the Times noted that "the three men did not pose for the customary photo of hands clasped together in solidarity at the fund-raiser. In fact, they did not appear together on stage during the event." Tensions have arisen between the Bush and Giuliani camps over Bush's campaign tactics during the primary. Earlier this week, Bush's vanquished opponent, John McCain, helped Giuliani raise some campaign cash of his own in Washington.

McCain was the focus of "a bluntly worded memo" circulated by House Republican campaign committee chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., who wrote that the party should align itself with McCain if it hopes to be successful in November, according to the Washington Post. Davis pointed out that McCain ran strong in the Northeast and in California, areas where Bush and Republican congressional candidates are lagging in early polls. "The presidential primaries have shown that there are legions of new voters out there ready for a change," Davis wrote. "Every House Republican must open their arms to these Independent and like-minded Democrat voters and let them know they are welcome in the family. Every House Republican must reach out to these voters and let them know there's room in our party for new ideas."

The Elian factor

Some pundits are speculating that Bush's most important running mate in Florida may be 6-year-old Cuban exile Elian Gonzales. Alex Penelas, the mayor of Miami-Dade County -- and an ally of Al Gore's -- said today that the area's Cuban population, about 800,000 strong, would hold the
Clinton administration responsible if it returned the boy and civil unrest broke out," writes the New York Times.

Who wants to be president II

The Phoenix Times has a new version of
its "who wants to be a president" game, titled "Round 2, Thunderdome." A sample question includes: "You've spent a record
$63.2 million to obtain the Republican nomination. You should ...

A. Keep spending. You can always get more.

B. Show your fiscal responsibility and cut back.

C. Blow the remaining $10 million on a hookers-and-coke Vegas bender.

D. Call your dad for a loan.

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Talking heads

(All EST and all guests tentative)

  • C-Span's "Washington Journal":

    7 a.m. -- Richard Dunham, Business Week.

    7:45 a.m. -- Sir Jeremy Greenstock, British ambassador to the United Nations.

    8:30 a.m. -- Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Ark., on energy policy and oil prices.

    9:15 a.m. -- Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, on U.S.-China trade policy.

  • CNN's Crossfire:

    Topic: Missing White House E-Mails

    Guests: Stan Brand, Attorney and Larry Klayman, Judicial Watch.

    Poll positions

    Presidential race (previous):

  • Bush 44 to Gore 42 (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics March 22-23).

  • Bush 47 to Gore 42 (Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates March 21-23).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 42 (CBS News March 19-21).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 43 (Hotline Bullseye poll conducted by the polling company (R) and Global Strategy Group (D) March 16-19).

  • Gore 49 to Bush 43 (Pew Research for the People and the Press by the Princeton Survey Research Associates March 15-19).

    Vice presidential preferences (previous):

    Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • John McCain,
    27 percent

  • Elizabeth Dole,
    19 percent

  • Rudy Giuliani,
    6 percent

  • Christine Whitman,
    6 percent

  • George Pataki,
    3 percent

  • Tom Ridge,
    3 percent

  • Fred Thompson,
    3 percent

  • Connie Mack,
    2 percent

  • Other,
    3 percent

  • Not sure,
    28 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • Bill Bradley,
    27 percent

  • Dianne Feinstein,
    10 percent

  • Bob Kerrey,
    6 percent

  • Bob Graham,
    5 percent

  • John Kerry,
    4 percent

  • Bill Richardson,
    4 percent

  • Evan Bayh,
    3 percent

  • Other,
    6 percent

  • Not sure,
    35 percent

    New York Senate:

  • Giuliani 46 to Clinton 43 percent (Marist Institute poll March 27-28)


    "I hope they spend a lot of time and a lot of energy on this."

    Al Gore on the Republican investigation of his missing e-mail and staff's contacts with the IRS on behalf of
    unnamed unions. (AP)

    Sound off

    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at max@salon.com.

  • By Compiled by Anthony York

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