The vice president took his attacks straight to Bush country Thursday, kicking off a Lone Star State tour to highlight the Texas governor's failings. CNN reports that Al Gore's trip follows days of bad fiscal news simmering in the state press, including intimations that Republicans cooked the budget to make George W. Bush seem more fiscally responsible. "No longer do they have a surplus; it's virtually completely gone," Gore said in reference to Texas. "According to memos coming out of the Bush administration, it looks like the shortfall could be even worse than they are publicly acknowledging now." Earlier this week, a state government memo surfaced that indicated that the estimated annual budget deficit could reach $610 billion.
Cough if you hate Bush
Gore didn't just trash Texas finances, he went for their throat. The vice president repeated charges that Bush has made his constituents sicker and sicker through reckless environmental policies and irresponsible management of the state healthcare system, according to the Associated Press. Still, Gore buttered up Texas citizens as he took down their governor. "This is a wonderful state, but I think it should be -- and I think most people agree -- it should be a state where it's just as easy to raise a child as it is to set up an oil rig," Gore said. "But here are the facts: Texas now ranks No. 1 in industrial pollution. It's No. 2 for child poverty. It's No. 3 for deaths from asthma." Apparently, Gore's recent pumped-up poll numbers have him feeling confident. He tossed Bush a backhanded compliment, praising him for his "warm and engaging personality" while reminding voters that an election "is more than a popularity contest." Bush backers shadowed Gore, waving "Viva Bush" posters outside the campaign event.
Is McCain the man?
While the vice president stomped around on Bush's turf, the governor stayed holed up in Austin, closing in on his running mate choice. Sources now say that instead of picking an old friend like Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, Bush will choose his old nemesis John McCain. The Associated Press reports that the Republican primary troublemaker and press darling has ended his frequent protests that he would never take the veep job, igniting suspicion that he's the chosen one. According to GOP sources, McCain told his buddy Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge that if Bush called on him as a running mate, he "would serve." McCain also fueled speculation by skipping the straight talk when CNN asked about whether he could be Bush's No. 2. "It's a hypothetical because I don't believe I'm in the process," McCain said. "But if Governor Bush called I'd certainly like to talk to him about the weather and how things are going and how good a campaign he's running."
Bush's empty-suit Web site
While the McCain melodrama plays out, some critics are openly wondering whether Bush prematurely lifted the curtain on his redesigned Web site, according to CBS News. The new version of www.georgewbush.com puts style over substance, with an updated look but less information available about Bush's policies. Spokesman Tucker Eskew promises the lack of detail is a technical glitch, not a change in strategy. "We've changed not a single policy and we've removed not a single document," he said. "However, there are some missing links in the issues section." Eskew declined to set a date for when the site would be fixed.
Buchanan bucks the system
The Reform Party hopeful doesn't appreciate being taken offline in the presidential debate process. Trail Mix reports that Pat Buchanan blasted the Federal Election Commission, calling its policies, which effectively exclude him from the presidential debates, a "squalid Beltway scheme" to limit the range of discussion on issues like immigration, foreign aid and military deployment. "The American people are being told they cannot hear the candidate of the Reform Party," he said at a press conference in Washington, citing poll numbers that show a majority of voters approve of the major third parties being included in the debates.
But Buchanan's famously facile tongue failed him a bit when he was questioned about his own refusal to debate John Hagelin, his main challenger for the Reform Party nomination. The candidate promised to go head-to-head with Hagelin, provided the physicist honors the final vote of the Reform Party and does not return to the Natural Law Party if he loses the nomination. Buchanan then fudged on whether he would honor the same ballot results, calling them unreliable. The conservative candidate himself has a history of party switching, having abandoned the GOP before the first primary ballot when he found little party support.
Nader roasts corporate pork
Green Party presidential candidate and consumer activist Ralph Nader called on the major parties to cut their ties to big business. The St. Petersburg Times reports that Nader swung by the University of Tampa while he was in Florida to testify at a civil trail. "The polls are overwhelming against corporate welfare," Nader said. "What is needed is a president who can reach out to the public and end this corporate welfare." He also touted new public opinion numbers from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute that show him with 11 percent support in Connecticut, one of Nader's top state showings.
On the trail
Buchanan: To be announced.
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