Gore beats Bush to McCain

Bush should still get McCain's nod despite doubts. Gore scorns rival's record and Republicans wring their hands over Rudy.

Published May 1, 2000 9:15AM (EDT)

Al Gore has met with Republican also-ran John McCain, Reuters reports, and the vice president said the two covered crucial political ground in the impromptu chat at the Gores' residence. "We talked a little bit about how we can build support in both parties for campaign finance reform," said Gore, who has made praising McCain a campaign policy since the primaries. "I plan to talk to him further."

After returning from Vietnam, McCain quickly accepted the vice president's invitation, a marked contrast to negotiations for the Arizona senator's on-again, off-again summit with George W. Bush. However, the Associated Press reports that the Texas governor should expect a McCain endorsement. Still sounding less than thrilled at the prospect, McCain said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that it would be wrong for him to withold his support from Bush solely on the basis of campaign finance reform. "I would be litmus testing him, and I don't think that's appropriate for me to do," McCain said.

Gore asks Bush: Ready or not?

The Los Angeles Times reports that Gore continues to keep his promise to beat up Bush on policy and experience. The politics of personal destruction, however, are still off limits in his campaign, Gore said. "I like to focus on the issues, not personal attacks," said the vice president. "I leave that to [Bush]." In addition to criticizing Bush's "risky tax scheme," Gore has added foreign policy to his shots at the Texas governor on the environment, health care and education, hoping to contrast his credentials with those of Bush. "I think that a lot of people are asking that question: 'Does he have the experience to be president?'" Gore said in an interview. "It's not for me to answer," he added.

Bush shaky on foreign ground

Gore made his first major foreign policy address of the campaign, according to the Washington Post, and, to no one's surprise, the speech bashed Bush. Calling his own international relations strategy "forward engagement," Gore mocked Bush's foreign policy as borderline isolationist. "He suggests that he would not intervene to relieve even the brutal repression of ethnic cleansing and genocide," Gore said. "No wonder it took him six weeks to say anything about our action against the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo." Gore also accused Bush of being "stuck in Cold War mindset," particularly in dealings with Russia and China, which Bush views, Gore said, "primarily as present or future enemies" instead of "vital partners in our efforts to tackle problems menacing to us all."

The Bush campaign wasted no time in responding to the vice president's criticism. The New York Times reports that Bush advisor Condoleezza Rice attacked Gore's speech even before he delivered it (using an advance copy of his remarks). Largely credited with bringing Bush up to speed on foreign policy, Rice dismissed Gore as a latecomer to the issue, singling out his positions on Russian and Chinese relations as hypocritical. "Where was he when it was time to stand up and be counted in Seattle?" Rice asked, referring to the World Trade Organization proceedings that failed to start a new series of global trade talks. Rice also questioned Gore's involvement in Russian policy, calling him blind to the corruption that has crippled that nation's transition to democracy. Said Rice, Russian officials whom "the vice president was calling 'reformers' were stealing the country blind, with the money going into Swiss bank accounts."

Beating Dubya by the Bush book

Gore is taking a page out of former President Bush's book in his attacks against the presumptive GOP nominee. According to a New York Times analysis, George the elder was precisely in Gore's position when he faced Michael Dukakis in 1988. Bush had bid to succeed a charismatic two-termer and was faced with a little-known governor more centrist than his party and credited with turning around his state. By the end of the race, Bush had discredited the "Massachusetts miracle" and portrayed his rival as an overreaching novice. By dissecting the Texas governor's home-state record and belittling his foreign policy experience, Gore is repeating the Bush strategy and hoping that Americans will trust him to stay the course on the Clinton economic recovery. In that spirit, Gore's campaign ads will tells voters, "Al Gore is ready. Is George W.?"

Kinder, gentler campaigning

Less than a week after promising a return to civility on the campaign trail, Bush needled Gore at a talk-radio conference, the Los Angeles Times reports. Mentioning the recent anniversary of Gore's infamous Buddhist temple fund-raising visit, Bush quipped, "It's an amazing fund-raising act where you can convert poverty into wealth. Nevertheless, I know he couldn't make it [here] and I'm sure he's celebrating this occasion in private."

Rudy's rickety race

Rudy Giuliani's decision about continuing his Senate race against Hillary Rodham Clinton has caused much fretting in Republican circles, and with good reason, according to New York Newsday. Newsday's analysis acknowledges that cancer treatment might humanize the prickly Giuliani, but it could also put him out of commission during the key fund-raising season. Furthermore, Newsday asserts, even sympathetic voters might balk at voting for someone afflicted with a potentially fatal illness.

But the current GOP choices should Giuliani drop out are not confidence inspiring. Newsday finds that potential successors, including New York Gov. George Pataki and Rep. Rick Lazio, lack the drawing power, the money and the time to face down Clinton's formidable campaign. Even sick, Newsday concludes, Giuliani is the best possible candidate for the GOP in New York. Republican leaders "wish for him a speedy return to good health. From a political point of view, though, they're praying that he's up for the race."

Rudy rival on the right

Not all Republicans are jumping on the Giuliani bandwagon. The New York Times reports that former Rep. Joseph J. DioGuardi will vie with Giuliani for the support of the Conservative, Independent and Right-to-Life parties in New York. DioGuardi says that a race between pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Giuliani and a like-minded Clinton leaves the family-values crowd without a real choice. "We have two social liberals in the race, said DioGuardi. "There's a clear need for a conservative alternative." In response to charges that his involvement in the race would only pave the way for a Clinton victory, DioGuardi denied being a spoiler. "I'm in this race to win. That might spoil someone's day," he said.

Whom should you vote for?

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

Talking heads

  • C-Span's "Washington Journal":

    7 a.m. -- Newspaper Articles

    7:30 a.m. -- TBA

    8 a.m. -- Newspaper Articles

    8:15 a.m. -- Dorothy Stoneman, YouthBuild USA

    9 a.m. -- Newspaper Articles

    9:15 a.m. -- Kenneth Prewitt, Census Director

    Watch "Washington Journal" on the web.

  • CNN's "Crossfire":

    Topic: New York Senate race up for grabs.

    Guests: Judith Hope, NY Dem. Party Chair and Mike Murphy, Republican Strategist/McCain Adviser.

  • MSNBC's "The Mitchell Report"

    Host: Andrea Mitchell

    6 - 6:30 p.m.

    Topic: Gun Control

    Guests: Andrew Cuomo, HUD Secretary
    Marie C. Wilson, President, White House Project

  • MSNBC's "Equal Time with Ollie North & Paul Begala"

    6:30-7 p.m.

    Topic: Politics

    Guests: Ari Fleischer, Bush Spokesperson
    Ron Klain, Gore Advisor
    Mark Katz, Soundbite Institute

  • MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews"

    7 - 8 p.m.

    Topic: McCain's trip to Vietnam

    Guest: Senator John McCain, (R-AZ)

  • MSNBC's "The News with Brian Williams"

    9 - 10 p.m.

    Topic: President Clinton

    Guest: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Presidential Historian

    (Note: All times Eastern and guests subject to change.)

    Poll positions

    Presidential race:

  • Bush 47 to Gore 38 (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll April 26-27).

  • Bush 43 to Gore 41 (CBS News April 15-17).

  • Bush 44 to Gore 42 (Newsweek April 13-14).

  • Bush 50 to Gore 41 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today April 7-9).

  • Bush 45 to Gore 40 (Marist College April 3-5).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 42 (Zogby April 1-4).

    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: To be announced.

    Gore: Massachusetts and Washington.

    Sound off

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

  • By Alicia Montgomery

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

    MORE FROM Alicia Montgomery

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