Congress cools to Bush

Bush warms to California, Hillary frosts New Yorkers and McCain barnstorms for Rudy.

By Alicia Montgomery
Published April 10, 2000 8:20AM (EDT)

According to the New York Times, the Republican Congress has fallen out of love with George W. Bush. After pre-primary pledges of undying devotion, the Capitol Hill GOP is starting to plan around either a Bush loss or a coattail-free win. In addition to the Texas governor's dwindling poll numbers, many Republicans say the Bush-Congress relationship is doomed by lack of communication, making a unified agenda nearly impossible. "Nobody is pulling together what needs to be pulled together," complained one Republican senator who requested anonymity from the Times. "You can't have a Republican nominee, a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican National Committee not moving in the same way at the same time."

Others in the GOP remain optimistic about Bush, including Virginia Rep. Tom Davis. "Our guys are not afraid to run with Governor Bush," Davis said. "He's going to be far stronger than Dole was and his dad was. Even if the polls are equal [concerning Bush and Al Gore], that's eight points better than Bob Dole." So if Dole gets the Democratic nomination, Bush will again be a sure thing?

Worldwide Bush

Bucking conventional wisdom, Robert Kagan urges Bush to focus on foreign affairs in a Washington Post Op-Ed. "The offensive can't start soon enough," warns Kagan, who sees Al Gore's experience with the Clinton administration's international affairs as a handicap. He also provides a handy list of global hot spots for the Texas governor and foreign policy novice to concentrate on during the campaign, including Russia, Haiti, Iraq, the Balkans and Kashmir, India. Too bad the column didn't come with a map.

California dreamin'

The Los Angeles Times reports that Bush is heavily courting California's Latino community, in spite of discouraging poll numbers in that state. At the National Hispanic Women's Conference in Los Angeles, Bush revived his "compassionate conservative" message, touting "leadership that rejects the politics of pitting one group of people against another, leaders that stand up and say we will not use our children, the children of immigrants, as a political issue in America." Bush forgot to mention former Gov. Pete Wilson, credited with the anti-Latino tilt of the California GOP during the 1990s, or Proposition 187, the 1994 anti-immigrant legislation supported by many California Republicans.

If Bush's memory was conveniently faulty, he showed an uncharacteristic command of geography. Arguing that he is closer to Californians than his opponent is, Bush remarked, "I was raised in the West. The west of Texas. It's pretty close to California. In more ways than Washington, D.C., is close to California." Who said he wasn't smart!

Bush loves Bill

That's Gates, not Clinton. The Washington Times reports that Bush is offering Microsoft a shoulder to cry on in the wake of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling against the software giant. "I stand on the side of innovation, not litigation," Bush said during a Washington state campaign stop. The governor has resisted specific criticism in the case, but has strongly implied that he will speak up for other defenseless billion-dollar companies that are unfairly sued for antitrust crimes should he become president.

Money can buy you love

The Associated Press reports that Gates' company has taken a new interest in Washington -- or perhaps, rather, bought an interest in Washington. The Center for Responsive Politics has released a report showing that Microsoft and its employees have spent more than $727,000 on political contributions to both parties since 1999, almost as much as they gave in 1997 and 1998 combined. Though gifts have gone to both parties, the Republicans have received 81 percent of the soft money from Microsoft. Right now, that's probably a better investment than the company's stock.

New Gore not new enough

The man who invented the Internet still hasn't managed to reinvent himself. So says a Washington Post report. While voters have been pleased with some of the changes the vice president has made to improve his public image, several continue to express doubts about his sincerity. "Excuse my French," the Post quotes one Milwaukee voter as saying, "but he's full of bull." Half of Americans agree, with 50 percent of the electorate recently polled by the Post calling Gore "insincere and somewhat phony." Great news for the GOP, except that 45 percent of voters say the same thing about Bush. Will he start wearing earth tones, too?

Gore flips for Florida

Newsweek reports that the Gore's eagerness to campaign in Florida, a Bush stronghold, is part of his crusade to be seen as his own man. His ever-evolving stance on the Elian Gonzales case is a way to distinguish himself from President Clinton, even though it irritates many Democrats. Bronx Rep. Josi Serrano says that Gore pandered to Cuban expatriates "for the sake of votes in Florida ... that already belong to Governor Bush." Belong to Bush? Gore disagrees.

Hillary, go home!

Some New York women aren't sending out the welcome wagon for Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to an AP story. "She came out of no place. She's not even a New Yorker," says one suburban mother. The AP reports that, despite a fall in rival Rudy Giuliani's poll numbers, he is still strong among many suburban women who are Clinton's economic and educational peers. Her new status as a neighbor has failed to change another voter's mind: "Who does she think she is? She's the president's wife, but that doesn't give her a right to run."

Hill and Bill back in Arkansas

Critics who call for Hillary Clinton to go back to Arkansas got their wish, temporarily. The AP reports that Bill and Hillary Clinton made a brief trip to Arkansas to see family friend Diane Blair, who is terminally ill with cancer. Mrs. Blair's husband, James Blair, had a brief brush with Clinton scandal fame as the advisor who helped Hillary Clinton make $100,000 on a $1,000 investment in cattle futures.

The John and Rudy show

The AP reports that John McCain and Rudy Giuliani were at it again, traveling around New York to support Giuliani's bid for the Senate. While on the road, McCain couldn't pass up a dig at Giuliani's opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mentioning the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that both Clintons have accused Giuliani of consorting with, McCain was quick to point out his shaky relationship with ultraconservatives. "Obviously I received a groundswell of their support in the campaign that I just completed unsuccessfully," McCain said.

The New York Post reported the Clinton campaign's response. Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said, "John McCain is not running for the Senate and at some point Rudy Giuliani is going to have to stand on his own and tell the people of New York what he would do in Washington."

Save some for George

McCain may soon give in and do some campaigning for that other Republican who wants a win in New York. reports that the Arizona senator is warming, ever so slightly, to the idea of supporting Bush. "My strategy is to make sure that Governor Bush is the president of the United States," McCain said in a television interview. "I just need to reach some understandings with him." Does McCain understand that he lost?

Whom should you vote for?

Take our survey and find out. You might be surprised.

Poll positions

Presidential race:

  • Bush 44 to Gore 44 (Newsweek April 6-7).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 45 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today March 30-April 2).

  • Gore 47 to Bush 46 (ABC News/Washington Post March 30-April 2).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 45 (CNN March 30-April 2).

    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 Todd 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:

  • Clinton 52 to Giuliani 42 (New York Times/CBS News April 1-5).

  • Clinton 46 to Giuliani 43 (Quinnipiac College March 28-April 3).

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

  • Clinton 45 to Giuliani 42 (Zogby March 23-25).

    On the trail

    Bush: No public schedule.

    Gore: Tennessee and Ohio.

    Sound off

    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at

  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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