"A ton of dough" for Lazio

The golden boy calls for cash as Clinton calls him inconsistent.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published June 14, 2000 10:22PM (EDT)

Republican golden boy Rick Lazio, it seems, needs a bigger allowance. According to the Associated Press, the Long Island congressman said he'll need "a ton of dough" to finish off cash magnet Hillary Rodham Clinton in the New York Senate race. Lazio picked up the race with only $3.5 million in his pocket, and set $15 million as his funding goal during an interview with radio talk jockey Don Imus. His admission suggests that New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was better at passing along his supporters than passing along the remainder of his $19 million war chest. Current polls show Lazio running closer to Clinton than Giuliani had.

While Lazio was clear on his cash crisis, Clinton pounded him as fuzzy on policy points. "You're going to have a great time trying to figure out where he stands on issues," the first lady said during a suburban campaign stop. Clinton singled out Lazio's flip-flop on hate-crime laws, a potential sore point with gay and minority voters.

GOP shakes down its own
Lazio isn't the only Republican congressman hungry for cash. The New York Times reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert wants Republican members to ante up $16 million for a party fundraising campaign -- or else. "It's obvious we're going to have to all pull together because the Democrats are raising a lot of money," said Hastert spokesman John P. Feehery. "The speaker believes that getting resources to our candidates in need is very important." Members who fail to meet their fundraising goals could see their plum committee assignments vanish. GOP leaders plan to target the money at district elections strategically critical to maintaining the Republicans' six-seat majority.

Clinton's congressional crusade
The first lady did a little lobbying of her own on Capitol Hill, pushing Congress to renew the Violence Against Women Act. CNN reports that Clinton spoke forcefully on behalf of the domestic violence legislation, emphasizing its importance as symbol as well as law. "We are here today to send a clear message that if we want to stop violence against women ... then we must reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act now," she said. Joining Clinton were Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Constance Morella, R-Md., along with law enforcement officers and domestic violence program officials.

Gore's good-news road show
The vice president's "progress and prosperity tour" began with a lot of expensive promises and economic happy talk, according to the Washington Post. "Believe it or not, I am here to give you still more good news," Al Gore told a New York audience, recounting how he and President Clinton had moved the country from a "time of recession and doubt" to a period of "pride and plenty." He also advocated new "trust funds" that would set aside government dollars for national -- and Democratic Party -- priorities like environmental protection, school improvements and medical research. But George W. Bush's campaign dismissed Gore's idea as more big-government bureaucracy. Said spokesman Ari Fleischer, "It sounds like the only thing Al Gore 'trusts' is the federal government."

Making Social Security a campaign plus
The vice president has also presented his "Social Security Plus" plan to encourage private retirement savings, Reuters reports. "With Social Security as the unshakable foundation, people should be able to invest and save more for their retirement without gambling away their Social Security," Gore told a New York crowd. Though the details have yet to be sorted out, the vice president promised that his proposal, unlike Bush's "risky scheme" for partial Social Security privatization, would insulate Americans from the Wall Street roller coaster.

Everybody loves George
In a rare move for Republicans, Bush is actively seeking out everybody's vote. "For years they've just ceded this major advantage to Democratic opponents, particularly in areas where blacks and Hispanics make a sizable portion of the electorate," says Ron Lester, a Democratic pollster. "It's very difficult to win if you're giving away up to 90 percent of that." Bush isn't limiting his outreach to racial groups who've felt excluded from his party. He's also striving for support among social moderates by soft-pedaling on GOP "family values" issues, a position that has the potential to cause a Christian conservative backlash. But that's a gamble Bush is willing to take, according to political analyst Larry Sabato. "Bush believes that he has to take the chance that conservatives are hungry enough to tolerate this," Sabato said. "And if he's wrong, he'll lose and he knows it."

Blacks not buying Bush
Despite the Texas governor's "compassionate conservative" message, African-American voters remain uneasy about the Republican and his party. The Washington Post reports that Bush has been inconsistent in his overtures to the black community. New York's Rev. Floyd H. Flake, an influential African-American pastor and past supporter of Giuliani's, said that Bush never followed up on their October meeting. Flake has now endorsed Gore. "I think [Bush] is going to have to do more than he's doing," Flake said. "He's going to have to identify some leaders that he actually has some things in common with and have some real discussions with them."

Bush believes that as African-Americans get to know him better the situation will improve, but acknowledges that he still has some hurdles ahead in his relationship with black voters. "It'll be hard," Bush said during an interview a few months ago. "I haven't had a chance to prove my heart to people."

Bush dodges Confederate controversy
In a move meant to prove his heart to the black community, Bush quietly removed plaques bearing Confederate symbols from the Texas Supreme Court, an action long sought by the state chapter of the NAACP, according to Reuters. But this gesture could open up Bush to charges of hypocrisy from Confederate heritage groups. Bush has repeatedly declined to condemn South Carolina for its public displays of the Confederate flag, though the state eventually voted to end its official sanction of the banner.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post June 8-11).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 44 (CNN/USA Today/Gallup June 6-7).
  • Bush 42 to Gore 41 (Zogby May 29-31).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 39 (CBS News/New York Times May 10-13).
  • Bush 51 to Gore 43 (Los Angeles Times May 4-7).

    Vice-presidential preferences (previous):
    Preferences for Republican vice-presidential candidate among Republican voters (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1):

  • Colin Powell, 39 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • John McCain, 18 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 6 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 5 percent
  • John Kasich, 4 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Other, 1 percent
  • Not sure, 5 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

    On the trail
    Pat Buchanan: New Jersey and New York.
    Bush: Maine.
    Gore: Pennsylvania and New York.
    Ralph Nader: Washington.

    Sound off
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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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    Related Topics ------------------------------------------

    Al Gore George W. Bush Hillary Rodham Clinton Rudy Giuliani