In the good news/bad news department for Vice President Al Gore, a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows he now leads president-elect George W. Bush 50-41 in a hypothetical presidential rematch. The new poll provides the most convincing evidence to date that America loves a loser.
Gore, of course, trailed in nearly every tracking poll during the election's final weeks, but actually topped Bush in the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes. But a new CBS poll shows Bush with a higher favorable rating than his vanquished foe, with 49 percent of those surveyed giving Bush positive marks, while only 44 percent gave the same to Gore.
President-elect Bush took a victory lap around the Capitol Monday, meeting lawmakers with the generous, gee-whiz approach of a kid with a new bike. "It's amazing what happens when you listen to the other person's opinion, and we began the process of doing that today," he told reporters during meetings with the two Democratic minority leaders, Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. While leaders from both parties frown on the size and scope of his proposed $1.3 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade, Bush stayed upbeat, calling his plan "even more solid today than it was a year ago." Earlier in the day, however, after meeting with Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, he voiced gloomier sentiments about the economy, saying, "We must be concerned in this country about energy." Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told the Washington Post there is "a looming energy crisis" caused by a reliance on foreign oil. "If you look back at previous recessions, they often were triggered by problems in the energy sector," he said. Unstated message: Hey, if this economy tanks, it was already broken.
Over at the White House, Laura Bush, dressed in lilac and looking straight out of a 1967 Redbook, met for about an hour with Hillary Rodham Clinton, wearing her usual serious, no-nonsense black suit. They appeared briefly before cameras holding hands, and the wild contrast -- between the shy librarian wife of the new president and the cool, outspoken new senator some hope will oppose him in 2004 -- is likely to give fodder for feminist, anti-feminist and post-feminist rants in the days and years to come.
Clinton talk show floated
The Associated Press quoted NBC officials as confirming a scoop by Matt Drudge that the network has been pitched an interview show starring President Clinton. The idea came from longtime Clinton friend Harry Thomason, who, like his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, is a TV producer. Will the show be more "Charlie Rose" or "Regis"? "We have no idea what the show is," NBC spokeswoman Shirley Powell said. "We really would have to have a formal pitch before we would move ahead with anything."
Meanwhile, Clinton has an important audience Tuesday with Bush, and the Post reports one curious topic that is expected to be on the agenda: "The White House said Clinton plans to consult Bush about visiting Communist North Korea before leaving office." Bush next meets with Vice President Al Gore -- a month and a half after Gore, as the post-election campaign in Florida began heating up, requested a meeting with Bush and was rebuffed.
No honeymoon for losers
The post-concession holiday Gore has enjoyed -- with warm plaudits from his usual critics on the left (Chris Matthews) and the right (Peggy Noonan) -- also seems to have elevated his poll numbers. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows his favorability rating at 57 percent, rising to a pre-Election Day level after dropping into the mid-40s as the legal arguments for a Florida recount plodded along. Nonetheless, grumbling over Gore has already begun; the New York Times ran a story Sunday saying Democrats plan to look to Clinton instead of Gore as the party's true leader after he leaves office. A Times editorial Tuesday dismisses such a plan, but goes on to say, "We also believe it would be a mistake for Democrats to regard Mr. Gore as the entitled nominee for 2004. Indeed, a defeat as dispiriting as Mr. Gore's obligates the party leaders to think in two directions simultaneously. They owe a debt of respect to Mr. Gore for making a hard fight, but they also have an obligation to consider whether the message from the public is that it is time to list other potential candidates' names on a fresh page."
It's time, the Times writes, "to get busy circulating names new and old. The Senate has plenty of members and alumni who would like a second look."
Even some of Gore's most ardent supporters on Election Day -- African-Americans -- say they have reason to feel betrayed by the veep, reports Tamala Edwards, and are wondering why they should support him in 2004.
Poll: 58 percent of blacks won't accept Bush as prez
Still, it's tough to believe Bush could ever find a sufficient portion of black voters willing to break ranks for him. Only 8 percent supported him this year, and according to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 68 percent of blacks surveyed say they feel "cheated" by the election results, 50 percent believe Bush "stole the election" and a whopping 58 percent say that when Bush is inaugurated in January, they will not "accept him as the legitimate president." Bush will take his first step toward improving his relations with African-Americans Wednesday when he meets in Austin, Texas, with black ministers from around the country.
The president-elect can't seem to catch any breaks on the issue. Even his nomination of retired Gen. Colin Powell as secretary of state, which would be the highest administration post ever held by an African-American, had an embarrassing moment Monday when Newsweek's Michael Isikoff unearthed this from Powell's memoir: "I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed and so many professional athletes (who were probably healthier than any of us) managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units," he wrote. "Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country."
Powell also got caught in an apparent flip-flop regarding his general view of sanctions by the Washington Post, and was criticized by the Times' Thomas Friedman, who acknowledged his strengths ("Mr. Powell is three things Mr. Bush is not -- a war hero, worldly wise and beloved by African-Americans") before wondering whether the world, with its Internet-fueled economy, has changed too drastically for Powell.
"Hooey," said Andrew Sullivan on his Web site. "You don't need to have gone abroad to be good at foreign policy. But you do need to kick butt from time to time and not be cowed by one of the very few black men in America who doesn't seem to hate you."
The counting continues ...
The media recount in Florida began Monday with representatives of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press, along with conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, pooling their resources to eyeball ballots in Broward County at a snail's pace -- finishing 400 by the end of the day. Broward's a tryout of sorts for the media counters, who are beginning there to figure out a practical way of counting the whole state. Not that everyone in the state is looking for new numbers, of course: Larry Klayman, Judicial Watch's chairman/gadfly, told the Wall Street Journal, "We're not looking for anything in particular. It's quite clear we'll never know who really won the election."
Plus, there's plenty of reason to be wary when the media decides to team up, as when major broadcast networks and print outlets jointly funded the exit polling services of the Voter News Service. In its January cover story, Brill's Content deconstructs the Election Night debacle and unearths an embarrassing VNS postmortem memo from editorial director Murray Edelman, who says of the Florida miscall, "I still believe the biggest problem in the model is that we did not correctly anticipate the impact of the absentee vote."
-- Kerry Lauerman [9:20 a.m. PST, Dec. 19, 2000]