Man threatens to shoot Bush

McCain fires on a gun law loophole, undecided voters say the debate was off target and the veep nominees prepare for battle.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published October 5, 2000 11:18AM (EDT)

George W. Bush has always been a friend to gun owners, but a recent assassination threat could make him reconsider. According to the Associated Press, Roger Deal of Huntington, W.Va., was arrested after he reportedly told a shopping mall employee, "I'm going home to warm up my gun. I heard George W. Bush is coming to Huntington." The Secret Service took Deal into custody on Saturday, and Bush's visit to the town on Monday passed without incident. At a hearing Wednesday, a judge released Deal on his own recognizance and ordered him to stay on his 30-acre farm pending further court action. Deal, who reportedly suffers from bipolar disorder, will be allowed off his property for medical appointments.

Maverick Republican fires at gun law loophole
Bush's rival in the primaries, Arizona Sen. John McCain, is working to keep guns out of dangerous hands. The New York Times reports that McCain, who has been a proponent of gun rights throughout his legislative career, is appearing in issue ads that advocate forcing sellers at gun shows to do background checks on those seeking to purchase weapons. The 30-second spots, sponsored by the nonprofit Americans for Gun Safety, show the senator speaking directly to the camera. "I'm John McCain with some straight talk," he begins. "Convicted felons have been able to buy and sell thousands of guns at gun shows because of a loophole in the law. Many were later used in crimes. That's wrong." The spots are running in Colorado, where there's a ballot initiative aimed at closing the gun show loophole.

Much ado about nothing
Bush and Al Gore used plenty of ammunition against each other during Tuesday night's debate. But according to a panel of undecided voters, they were shooting blanks. The Washington Post reports that little that the candidates said improved their images with a group of 10 Wisconsin voters. According to this panel, Gore was the better debater. "Gore is more presentable in public," said Karen Miller, a registered nurse. "He shows the confidence, and he can project it." But others found Bush -- and his stands on several issues -- more appealing. "I thought Bush won hands-down," said John Hertel, a fire extinguisher technician. "He answered the questions. Gore just ignored the question and gave his position statement and that was it."

Though there was little consensus on which candidate achieved victory, a majority of the group agreed that the Commission on Presidential Debates made a mistake in failing to invite third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan. "I always like having a third party [in the debate]," said schoolteacher Dollie Vinson, "because they bring up issues the other two parties don't bring up ... issues that normal, regular people like us really want to know about."

A man of the people
Nader, still smarting from his exclusion from the stage -- and even the audience -- of the first presidential debate, hit the campaign trail with a vengeance in Rhode Island, the Providence Journal reports. The Green Party hopeful blasted Gore's debate performance, and continued to insist that he would provide a better voice for working Americans. "I would have shown what it was like for a presidential candidate not to speak with a forked tongue and a Pinocchio nose, as Al Gore does regularly," said Nader. He also asserted that the debate commission is depriving him of his best chance to connect with the American people. "Get me on those presidential debates just once," he said, "and you will see what happens to those polls."

Polls good for Gore, mixed for Nader
Perhaps Nader could convert more Gore supporters if he were allowed to participate in the debates. It's true that without a podium, he has been getting mixed results in the polls. First, the good news: According to the latest Reuters/MSNBC survey, there's evidence of a Nader surge. The Green Party candidate is up to 7 percent in this poll, a two-point increase since the poll was last taken earlier this week. The bad news for Nader is that his rise hasn't hurt Gore. The vice president's support is steady at 46 percent, compared with 40 percent for Bush. Buchanan is hanging on with 1 percent support, while the Libertarian Party candidate, Harry Browne, fades to less than 1 percent. This survey has a three-point margin of error.

Gore has more reason to celebrate with the latest Gallup survey. It shows him gaining ground, with 49 percent support among likely voters, compared with 41 percent for Bush. Nader, whose numbers in this poll have been fluctuating between 1 and 4 percent, earned 2 percent in the latest survey. Buchanan remains stuck at 1 percent. This survey has a four-point margin of error.

Second-banana battle
No matter how you slice the poll numbers, there's little good news for Bush. Although his running mate, Dick Cheney, will get a chance to retake the momentum in Thursday night's debate against Joseph Lieberman, USA Today reports that Cheney feels "no special pressure" to score a knockout in the contest. "It will be a lot of fun," said Cheney, who hasn't debated since 1988. "I've been involved in other debate prep for others before, but clearly I've never been the guy in the chair." While the sponsor is promoting the Danville, Ky., event as the "Thrill in the 'Ville," don't look for fireworks from Cheney. "I plan to be pleasant, professional," he said.

Lieberman, in contrast, doesn't plan to let his guard down in Thursday's veep contest. The Connecticut senator hopes to be ready for anything after four days of debate prep, which Lieberman compared to "boxing training camp." Robert Barnett, a Washington lawyer, is his sparring partner, playing Cheney in mock debates. Lieberman is very glad to have Barnett -- who once served as Lynne Cheney's book agent -- in his corner: "He's the Cal Ripken of debate preparations," Lieberman joked. "He has been very helpful."

On the trail
Bush: Michigan and Iowa.
Buchanan: New Jersey.
Gore: Michigan and Florida.
Nader: Connecticut.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Gore 46 to Bush 40 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 2-4).
  • Gore 49 to Bush 41 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Oct. 1-3).
  • Gore 48 to Bush 46 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 28-Oct. 1).
  • Gore 45 to Bush 39 (New York Times/CBS News Sept. 27-Oct. 1).
  • Bush 45 to Gore 44 (Newsweek Sept. 27-29).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 42 (Los Angeles Times Sept. 23-25).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 7 to Buchanan 1 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 2-4).
  • Nader 2 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Oct. 1-3).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 28-Oct. 1).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 2 (New York Times/CBS News Sept. 27-Oct. 1).
  • Nader 2 to Buchanan 1 (Los Angeles Times Sept. 23-25).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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