Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman have turned the Democrats into the pop culture scolds of this campaign, and that has driven one minister in the Church of Satan into supporting George W. Bush. The New York Post reports that Goth rocker Marilyn Manson is planning to vote Republican and that Manson revealed the news in an interview with Talk magazine. Manson is sick of being blamed by Lieberman for the Columbine High School massacre, and gave as warm an endorsement of Bush as could be expected from a cross-dressing Satan worshiper. "If I had to pick, I'd pick Bush, and not necessarily by default," Manson said. "I know I don't support what the other team is about."
If I only had a heart
Instead of battling evil, both candidates spent the weekend practicing to battle each other. The Washington Post asserts that Gore has the edge on policy, but must soften his pit bull style in his match with Bush. "Being friendly and deferential for Al is a far more important task in these debates," said a Gore advisor. "The process of the debate will show people how smart he is; people want to know if they can like him." They may like him better if he drops the "Let's make a deal" zingers he used to open his vice presidential debates with. In 1992, Gore told Dan Quayle, "I'll make you a deal this evening. If you don't try to compare George Bush to Harry Truman, I won't compare you to Jack Kennedy." He began his 1996 debate with former football hero Jack Kemp the same way. "I'd like to start by offering you a deal, Jack," Gore said. "If you won't use any football stories, I won't tell any of my warm and fuzzy stories about chlorofluorocarbon abatement." Kemp replied, "It's a deal."
If I only had a brain
No one needs to give Bush lessons on being warm and fuzzy, but sometimes he can't fill in the blanks on policy. In a 1994 Texas gubernatorial debate with Ann Richards, Bush had problems with a casino gambling rebuttal. "Do you wish to elaborate?" the moderator asked. "Not really," Bush responded. But that's OK according to the governor's advisors, who assert that Bush is a big-picture man, not a wonk. "He doesn't want to get dragged down into a battle of minutiae," said one aide of Bush's debate strategy. "He wants to talk about his program. He wants to demonstrate that he's conversant with the issues, that he's up to the job."
The Texas governor knows how to score points on the attack as well, and Gore should look out for his penchant for paper props. During the primary debates, Bush blindsided Sen. John McCain by holding up an anti-Bush flier as an example of negative campaigning. In another contest, Bush battled billionaire Steve Forbes on Social Security policy by bringing an old magazine column Forbes had written on the issue. Another strategy Bush's team has resurrected from the primaries is to set expectations so low that Bush only has to break even to look like a winner.
If I only had a chance
Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader doesn't have great expectations for the debates. He'd be happy with an invitation. According to the Boston Globe, that would make at least 12,000 other citizens very happy, too. That's how many people packed a Boston arena to shout their support for Nader's presidential quest, a larger crowd than usually turns up for the major-party candidates. He kept his message simple, saying that Democrats and Republicans were hiding behind the Commission on Presidential Debates to keep Nader's ideas out of the public arena. "The keys to the gate are being held by the two parties we're trying to challenge," he said. So far, the CPD won't open those gates an inch; it's sticking by its requirement that each candidate must get 15 percent support in major national polls before he will be granted a spot onstage.
That measure is arbitrary and weighted against Nader, according to his press secretary, Laura Jones. "National polling numbers don't reflect grass-roots third-party support because they only target likely voters," she said. Among the questions pollsters ask to determine who is likely to vote is whether the person has voted before. Since many of his supporters are young people who will be making their first trip to the ballot box, Nader says, he feels that polls are underestimating his appeal.
New poll player emerges
The numbers are looking up for a previously ignored third-party challenger. Libertarian Harry Browne broke the 1 percent mark in the latest MSNBC/Reuters survey. As for the other candidates, the poll shows a slight lead for Gore, with the vice president scoring 45 percent support to Bush's 43. Nader earned 3 percent and the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan was tied with Browne at 1 percent. The survey has a three-point margin of error.
Other polls, which have yet to pick up Browne on their radar screen, show a statistical dead heat between Bush and Gore. Newsweek has Bush up by 1 percent among likely voters, earning support from 45 percent of those polled. That survey has a three-point margin of error. The latest numbers from Gallup still show an even race, with Bush and Gore at 45 percent each, Nader creeping up to 4 percent and Buchanan stagnant at 1 percent. This poll has a four-point margin of error.
On the trail
Bush: West Virginia and Massachusetts.
Buchanan: To be announced.
Nader: New Hampshire and Vermont.
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