Wacko stalks Bush

A Texas man threatens to "kick his ass." Republicans are overrun with "rat" attacks, the New York Senate candidates struggle over Jews and Hillary Clinton chases female voters.

By Alicia Montgomery
September 13, 2000 4:19PM (UTC)
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As if George W. Bush weren't facing enough threats to his candidacy, the Smoking Gun Web site reports that Winfred Ener, a local malcontent, has been menacing the Texas governor. In a criminal complaint filed against Ener, Secret Service agents protecting Bush reported that they heard Ener shout, "Fuck Governor Bush, I'm going to kick his ass!" as he walked past the Governor's Mansion on July 29. In subsequent interviews with the agents, Ener said he was a member of the Communist Party and wanted to be supplied with weapons to carry out assassinations of his political foes. Among writings found in a search of Ener's home were the words "If you squirt lighter fluid on Gov. Bush's ass, he'll dance the fandango." Apparently, Ener threatens politicians in a bipartisan spirit. Ener said that Secret Service agents approached him in 1999 when he yelled obscenities at President Clinton during his visit to Texas.

Rat patrol dogs Bush
The Texas governor thinks the frenzy surrounding a possible subliminal message in a Republican National Committee campaign ad is just crazy, but the Democrats definitely smell a rat. Reuters reports that two Democratic senators are calling for the Federal Communications Commission to probe whether the RNC commercial about prescription drugs violates laws against subliminal advertising in flashing the word rats across the screen for a split second. The ad prompted Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and John Breaux of Louisiana to write a letter to FCC Chairman William Kennard warning, "We have reason to believe that broadcasters are airing television advertisements that contain subliminal messages in violation of public interest." So far, Bush has held firm to his view that the flap over the ad violates common sense. "Conspiracy theories abound in America's politics," Bush said. "I don't think we need to be subliminal about the differences between our views on prescription drugs. That's where the debate ought to be."


The trouble with normal
In his moment of need, Bush is trying to keep himself surrounded by friendly faces and crowds of "real people." But not every American family is welcome to stand next to Bush during his speeches about his tax plan. According to the Washington Post, a "typical" New Mexico family has to meet a number of qualifications before the family members can stand by Bush during his upcoming visit to that state. The family's income must be between $35,000 and $70,000 a year; the family cannot have any children under 1 year of age, in day care or in college, or anyone in night school; and it must have "no substantial savings outside of 401(k)." In other words, the family has to prove that it would gain nothing from Al Gore's targeted tax cut plan. "This is just a quick way to cut down on a lot of the preparation time if they have all this information in front of them for us to compute it," Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said.

Bush slips in another survey
The poll numbers just don't compute for those who still say Bush is a sure winner. The latest Reuters/Zogby poll shows that Gore is building his lead against Bush, and is now up 46 percent to 39 percent over the Texas governor. The Green Party's Ralph Nader earned 4 percent, and the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan was favored by 1 percent. This poll's statistically significant advantage for Gore (with a 3.2-point margin of error) is especially good news for the candidate considering that many of the positive polls for the vice president have not registered a statistically significant lead.

More love for the stiff man
Gore has long sought to decrease the number of voters who just plain don't like him, and the New York Times reports that the vice president is having some success since his convention makeover. In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, Gore leads Bush 42 percent to 39 percent. Nader scored 4 percent, and Buchanan earned 2 percent. Although Gore's lead is statistically insignificant in light of the poll's three-point margin of error, what is significant is that his favorability ratings have reached 44 percent, a large improvement over Gore's below-40-percent mark in the previous New York Times/CBS News poll. That compares with 42 percent of voters who have a favorable impression of Bush.


Women wonder about Hillary
The first lady has also struggled to deal with likability questions during her New York Senate race. Among Hillary Rodham Clinton's greatest concerns is that she doesn't seem to have her husband's luck with women. The Los Angeles Times reports that Clinton's campaign has yet to sweet-talk suburban female voters into abandoning their concerns about the first lady's ethics. "I think there's a perception that she is hugely ambitious and will do anything to advance her career," said Cindy Tague, an attorney living in upstate New York. "We all know she's very smart and determined, but there's something about her that doesn't ring true. And it makes me uneasy." Enough female voters share Tague's concerns that some polls show Clinton as much as 20 points behind Rick Lazio in support among the white female voters who make up the largest voting bloc in the state.

Republican political analyst Jay Severein believes that those who assumed women would flock to Clinton were just fooling themselves. "One of the dirty little secrets of American politics is that women judge female candidates much more harshly than male politicians," he said. "And when it comes to Hillary Clinton, the issue is magnified. She's a very polarizing figure, so many view her with suspicion."

Hillary is still tops to New York Jews
The first lady has faced less suspicion from Jewish voters, despite her association with Palestinian causes. A New York Post/Fox News poll finds that 61 percent of Jewish New Yorkers back Clinton's candidacy, compared with 30 percent who support Lazio. (The survey has a five-point margin of error.) Though Clinton is well short of securing the support of all the Jewish voters in her party -- 75 percent of the Jewish voters surveyed were Democrats -- pollster John Zogby believes that Clinton is making progress. "She's in pretty good shape," he said.


Big flap over a little check
Ideally, Lazio would like to win the majority of Jewish votes, and he hopes that one $500 check will help him get there. According to the New York Observer, the Long Island congressman has attacked Clinton for accepting a $500 donation from a professor, Clovis Maksoud, who once served as an Arab League representative to the United Nations. Maksoud has criticized "Washington's built-in bias toward Israeli objectives" and has referred to Jerusalem as "occupied territory." He has also spoken against the Oslo Accords and the immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel. Maksoud's views once landed him a spot on a death-threat list compiled by followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane. "We believe Mrs. Clinton should return this contribution immediately," said Bryan Flood, a spokesman for Lazio. "Given her well-documented flip-flops on issues of critical importance to Israel, and therefore the New York Jewish community, it is very troubling that Mrs. Clinton would accept this contribution from an individual who has historically spouted harsh and even venomous rhetoric against Israel."

The Observer notes that this criticism from the Republican's campaign comes a week after the White House released a 1998 photo of a smiling Lazio shaking hands with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Incidentally, 89 percent of Jewish voters surveyed by the New York Post said that the picture would have no impact on their vote.


On the trail
Buchanan: Washington.
Bush: California and Washington state.
Gore: Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Nader: California.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Gore 46 to Bush 39 (Reuters/Zogby Sept. 10-12).
  • Gore 42 to Bush 39 (New York Times/CBS News Sept. 9-11).
  • Gore 49 to Bush 42 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Sept. 8-10).
  • Gore 45 to Bush 42 (NBC/Wall Street Journal Sept. 7-10).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 39 (Newsweek Sept. 7-8).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 47 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 4-6).
  • Gore 49 to Bush 39 (Newsweek Aug. 30-31).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (Reuters/Zogby Sept. 10-12).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 2 (New York Times/CBS News Sept. 9-11).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Sept. 8-10).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (NBC/Wall Street Journal Sept. 7-10).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 4-6).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Newsweek Aug. 30-31).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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