Gore's battle of the bulge

Rolling Stone touches up his cover boy photo. Bush offers a lesson in character but needs one in grammar. Both candidates hog talk show time.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published October 19, 2000 9:27AM (EDT)

Al Gore has endured criticism for years that he's constantly giving his image a makeover. Now Inside.com reports that Rolling Stone magazine airbrushed some of Gore's assets in its latest issue. Apparently, a certain bulge in the vice president's pants had to be "brought down a bit" in the photo adorning the rock magazine's cover. Despite Gore's reputation for being stiff, Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner liked what he saw when he and Will Dana interviewed the candidate. "I urge you to vote for him," Wenner writes in a separate editorial.

It's the economy, stupid -- or is it?
In the homestretch of the campaign, Gore plans to accentuate the positive in the nation's economic picture. The Washington Post reports that Gore will try to convince voters that he's the best man to be president, considering that "the big choice" of the election is how to extend the Clinton-era economic boom. Speaking before a sympathetic town hall audience on Wednesday, Gore recited the economic accomplishments of the past eight years and then asked rhetorically, "Do we build on that foundation or do we erode that foundation? Do we change in the right direction or do we take a right-wing, U-turn and go back to a policy prescription that certainly produced an economic failure when it was tried before?"

But the vice president may have difficulty convincing voters that George W. Bush represents a "U-turn." The Texas governor is betting that Americans will consider maintaining prosperity more a matter of leadership, one of his perceived strengths, than a matter of experience, one of Gore's strong suits.

Wooing in Wisconsin
The economy was only part of Bush's message to Wisconsin voters, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. He did caution that a Gore administration would be a drag on prosperity, claiming that the "way to slow down this economy is to spend all that taxpayer money on bigger government." But Bush spent most of his time attacking Gore's character. According to Bush, Gore's denial at the last debate that he's a big-spending liberal "defies credibility," and the vice president's claim of fiscal responsibility stretched the truth. "Now, this is a man who's prone to exaggeration," Bush said, blasting Gore's statements that Bush's tax cuts are aimed at the rich as "class warfare."

Bush surrogate and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson was also on hand, and suggested that Gore be sent back to etiquette class after his swaggering debate performance. "Don't interrupt! Don't be a bully!" Thompson said. "Don't exaggerate!" The Wisconsin governor urged the crowd, on Election Day, to "send Al Gore back to kindergarten to learn these lessons."

Bush bogged down in Dubya-speak
Bush may not need to go all the way back to kindergarten, but the Texas governor could use a little remedial English education -- either that or a good nap. Traveling with the Bush campaign, Salon's Jake Tapper reports that the Republican candidate got a bit tongue-tied during some remarks about family values. "We want to promote families in America," Bush said. "Families is where our nation takes hope, where wings take dream. Families is how we pass values from one generation to the next." Perhaps Bush should debate President Clinton on what the real meaning of "is" is.

Biting the Big Apple
Although the debates are over, Bush and Gore will get another chance to face off Thursday night in Manhattan. According to the New York Post, both candidates will attend the Alfred E. Smith black-tie dinner, an annual Roman Catholic fundraiser that has become a must-stop on the road to the White House. In the past, the late Cardinal John O'Connor put up roadblocks, banning Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and President Clinton in 1996 from the event because of their pro-choice views. This year, Archbishop Edward Egan has struck a more conciliatory note, inviting abortion-rights supporters like Gore and New York Senate race rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rick Lazio as well as pro-lifer Bush.

While the candidates are in New York, they'll be fighting for face time on several television talk shows. Bush will sit in David Letterman's hot seat, while Gore will tape appearances with cuddlier hosts Rosie O'Donnell and Regis Philbin. Democratic running mate Joseph Lieberman will be Gore's warm-up act, appearing on the "Live With Regis" program airing Thursday.

Ray can't make the case
Not all the independent counsels are through airing the Clintons' dirty laundry. Reuters reports that Robert Ray, who investigated the first lady's role in the "travelgate" case, issued a report that said she perjured herself in testimony about the matter. "Her statement to the contrary under oath to this office was factually false," Ray said in the conclusion of the 243-page report. He added, however, that the evidence is "insufficient to show that Mrs. Clinton knowingly intended to influence the travel office decision or was aware that she had such influence at this early stage of the administration." Ray originally announced in June that he would not prosecute the first lady in the matter. Clinton took Ray's statement, however qualified, as vindication, and dismissed its possible impact on her Senate race. "I just think most New Yorkers and Americans have made up their minds about all of this," she said.

On the trail
Bush: Michigan and New York.
Buchanan: Florida.
Gore: New York.
Nader: Texas.

Presidential poll positions
Major-party candidates:

  • Bush 48 to Gore 42 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Oct. 15-17).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 43 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 15-17).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 44 (Washington Post/ABC News Oct. 12-15).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 41 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 12-14).
  • 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).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 4 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Oct. 15-17).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 1 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 15-17).
  • 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).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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