Porn prank bites Buchanan

Gore and Bush cram for the debate, with a new attitude and new makeup for the Democrat and new facts for the Republican. Polls call the race dead even.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published October 11, 2000 11:56PM (EDT)

When Pat Buchanan's supporters go to a Web page with "Buchanan" in its address, they probably expect to see something about trade, immigration and family values. They don't expect to see girls, girls, girls. But that's what they'll find, the Associated Press reports, at several addresses with domain names similar to Buchanan's. The Reform Party candidate is suing Rendina Solutions, the North Carolina firm that allegedly registered the naughty Buchanan sites. Attorney Mark Clausen, who represents Buchanan, claims that Rendina blackmailed the campaign, offering to sell the domain names to Buchanan for $10,000. The Buchanan camp wants the sites taken down or marked with a disclaimer and a link to its official site. "We want this stopped," Clausen said.

Bush and Gore go at it again
The major presidential candidates have more on their minds than Web sites and smut. USA Today reports that Al Gore and George W. Bush have been getting serious makeovers from their campaigns in preparation for their second debate Wednesday night. Top on the vice president's fix-it list is his face. Look for less foundation, powder and other assorted cosmetic goo, and considerably less eye rolling. Gore's attitude -- and alleged tall tales -- turned a debate win into a weeklong drubbing in the press. But Gore's determined to make amends. "I think I'll sigh a little bit less," he said.

While the Democrat obsesses about how he looks, Bush's challenge is to look like he knows what he's talking about. In preparation for tough, technical questions about policy, Bush has been going around the country this week, explaining his tax plan. The Texas governor also needs to do better with big-picture questions about how he would handle a crisis. "He needs to show command of the role of president," said political scholar Kathleen Hall Jamieson. But at least one advisor discounts the idea that all this coaching will change the debate. Karen Hughes, Bush's communications chief, said, "The real person tends to come out" under pressure. The idiot vs. the liar, Part 2?

Not as dumb as you think
Though it seemed to be running scared from debates just a month ago, the Bush team is brimming with confidence going into Wednesday's contest, Reuters reports. And it has the Gore campaign to thank. "I notice the Gore campaign has been saying for the last several days that Gov. Bush was babbling and couldn't string together two coherent sentences," said Bush strategist Karl Rove, referring to the Gore team's charges that the Republican is a "bumbling and babbling" candidate. Rather than hurting Bush, Rove thinks that the Gore camp's jibes will make it easier for the governor to look like a winner in the debate, even with limited effort. "They are setting a low standard for him," he said.

Your face could freeze like that
Despite advantages in delivery, details and command of the issues, Gore still managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the first presidential debate. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd advises the vice president to drop the bullying, goody-two-shoes routine immediately. Citing the "Saturday Night Live" parody of the debate -- which Gore's advisors forced him to watch -- Dowd writes, "Comics have been lampooning Mr. Gore, in his first face-off with W., as a Teacher's Pet from hell, a filibustering, exaggerating know-it-all." The vice president's impulse to do anything to prove that he's the smartest and the best, Dowd asserts, comes from dealing with an overly demanding dad who only responded when Gore leapt tall buildings in a single bound. It's time for Gore to break that habit before it breaks him, she concludes.

Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask
With the legions of advisors, academics and advance people preparing the candidates for their second debate, moderator Jim Lehrer could also use a few words of wisdom about how to improve his performance. Though Morton Mintz, writing for, has no quarrel with Lehrer's makeup or knowledge, he believes Lehrer's questions aren't making the grade. Both Lehrer and veep debate referee Bernard Shaw were unbiased, Mintz writes, but they let the candidates "say whatever they wished, no matter how redundant, inaccurate, skewed or self-serving." Mintz wants to see more questions about issues beyond tax cuts, like nuclear disarmament, corporate crime, the drug war and low-income housing.

Poll potpourri: They're neck and neck
While no one knows whether Bush will repeat his "fuzzy math" charges in Wednesday's contest, press and polling agencies are giving the campaigns a jumble of numbers. Most of the latest surveys show Bush and Gore deadlocked. Bush's bubble has partially burst in the most recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, with the Texas governor up 47 to 44 percent over Gore, the Green Party's Ralph Nader at 3 percent and Buchanan at 1 percent. At the beginning of the week, the same survey showed Bush up by eight points. The Washington Post/ABC News poll scores the race similarly, with Bush at 48 percent to Gore's 45 percent and a three-point margin of error. Nader had 3 percent and Buchanan less than 1 percent in this poll. Bush has attained his first lead in the Reuters/MSNBC survey, scoring 43 percent to Gore's 42 percent. There was good news in this poll for Nader, who held onto 5 percent support, while Buchanan tied with Libertarian Party leader Harry Browne for 1 percent. The Reuters/MSNBC survey has a three-point margin of error.

Gore's up, but just barely, in the CBS/New York Times poll, leading Bush 43 to 42 percent. In this survey, Nader had 4 percent to Buchanan's 2 percent, with a three-point margin of error. The Pew Center for the People and the Press obtained similar results, with Gore slightly ahead of Bush by 44 to 43 percent. Nader reached 5 percent, and neither Buchanan nor Browne registered at all in the Pew poll. The survey has a 3.5-point margin of error. None of the polls shows a statistically significant lead for either major-party candidate.

On the trail
Bush: North Carolina.
Buchanan: North Carolina.
Gore: Florida and North Carolina.
Nader: Kentucky and North Carolina.

Presidential poll positions
Major-party candidates:

  • Bush 47 to Gore 43 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Oct. 7-9).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 42 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 7-9).
  • Gore 48 to Bush 46 (Washington Post/ABC News Oct. 6-9).
  • Gore 43 to Bush 42 (CBS News/New York Times Oct. 6-9).
  • Gore 44 to Bush 43 (Pew Center for the People and the Press Oct. 4-8).
  • Gore 44 to Bush 41 (Newsweek Oct. 4-6).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Oct. 7-9).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 1, Browne 1 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 7-9).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Washington Post/ABC News Oct. 6-9).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 2 (CBS News/New York Times Oct. 6-9).
  • Nader 5 (Pew Center for the People and the Press Oct. 4-8).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 2 (Newsweek Oct. 4-6).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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