Though George W. Bush and Al Gore promised to run a clean race, it's clear that the mean season has arrived. The New York Times reports that a group called Aretino Industries has dropped an ad bomb in battleground states, including Ohio, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania. A remake of Lyndon Johnson's infamous "Daisy" campaign commercial declares that the Clinton-Gore administration "sold" national security secrets "to Communist Red China in exchange for campaign contributions." A Texas based nonprofit group, Aretino produced the spot, with an initial ad buy of $60,000. Carey Cramer, a spokesman for the organization, declined to name its contributors. "These are people with real life jobs and they don't want to lose their jobs," he said.
Cramer's job, however, is likely to spark the suspicions of the campaign finance reform crowd. He heads the Meridian Group, a political consulting organization in Texas. According to Marianne Holt, senior associate with the political watchdog group Center for Public Integrity, Meridian's work can be "pretty brutal," and the organization advertises itself as a political hard hitter. Holt also noted that CPI found that Aretino isn't incorporated in any state, rendering its contributors difficult to trace.
Nader jumps into Middle East mess
The Green Party presidential candidate has been tossing bombs at Gore's record from the left. But his opinions of the violence in the Middle East could prove to be explosive for his coalition. The Forward reports that a simmering controversy about Nader's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be coming to a boil. In a Washington press conference on Wednesday, Nader asserted that the "burden of restraint is more properly placed on the Israeli" side, and he blasted Gore for siding against the Palestinians. Online journal NewsForChange quotes Nader calling the vice president "cowardly" for his steadfast support of Israel, and blaming Israeli soldiers for "killing innocent children" in Palestinian territory. "Who are the forces that are producing most of the violence? The overwhelming excessive use of force is by the Israeli military," Nader told his supporters last week at a California rally. "So if you want to really quell the violence, you say to the Israelis, 'Back off, these rocks are not reaching the Israeli borders.'"
A statement released by the Association of State Green Parties went even further, encouraging America to stop all aid to Israel until the Jewish nation meets a number of conditions, including surrendering territory it won in its 1967 war. The peace process outlined in the Oslo Accords, said ASGP official Tom Sevigny, "has ignored international law, which is the only equitable basis for resolving ethnic conflict. Instead, Oslo ... privileges Israeli goals and needs at the expense of inalienable Palestinian rights to self-determination, political and economic freedom and return of refugees."
More states start swinging
Nader's candidacy has been a major factor in destabilizing the Democratic hold on several states. The New York Times reports that, in contrast to previous elections, the number of battleground states has increased as this Election Day nears. Most of the advantage so far has gone to George W. Bush, with the Republicans getting within striking distance in Wisconsin, Minnesota and West Virginia. But Gore's aggressive challenge has snatched Florida from the Republican lockbox. The unanticipated competitiveness and the close Electoral College count have forced both camps to chart their campaign strategies on the fly. "There really is a changing map," said top Bush advisor Karl Rove. "The old paradigm is decaying." For Gore strategist Tad Devine, the new paradigm means laying a new road to the White House, one that requires the ability to turn on a dime. "Our whole schedule is last minute," he said.
Democratic spending spree
The unexpected game of swing-state hopscotch may be taking its toll on Gore's bank account, according to the Associated Press. Federal Election Commission reports show that Gore spent $1 million per day in the first 18 days of October, with $23.1 million remaining in his coffers. Bush, who spent $14.7 million over the same period, has $22.3 million left. But don't look for either candidate to go broke. The Republican National Committee has $32 million left to boost Bush in the race's waning days, and the Democratic National Committee still has $27 million.
Gore goes for lace over leather
Speedily spending his war chest can't be nearly as much fun for the vice president as speeding on his motorcycle used to be. Reuters reports that talk show host Queen Latifah explored "the wild side" of Gore in an interview that is scheduled for broadcast Wednesdsay. The vice president was drawn into discussing his college drinking habits and one incident in which he sped off on his motorcycle to outrun a police car. Gore's message to Latifah's young viewers was: Don't try this at home. "I look back on those days and I feel like I'm very lucky to have survived," Gore said. The audience may have felt lucky to survive another icky personal disclosure from the vice president, including his opinions about what women should wear. "On a woman, leather or lace?" Latifah asked Gore. After a pause he responded, "Lace."
Economic boom is bust for Gore
But for the vice president, convincing voters that he's cool is taking a back seat to convincing them that he has had a hand in the nation's prosperity. And he's not having much luck with that message. The Washington Post reports that voters aren't inclined to give Gore much credit for the economic growth of the past eight years. "I can't see that Gore has influenced the economy that much," said Bush backer Barbara King. "I don't think he really participated in that area." Many Americans see prosperity as a private-sector product, and are unsure what role the next president will play in maintaining the growth. "I don't put a lot of trust in either one of them," said Jack Girard, an undecided voter. "I can't say that either one of them would be better for the economy."
Presidential poll positions
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