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Archive for Tuesday, July 20, 1999

T GET COMPLACENT

July 20, 1999

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It happened to papa; it could happen to you.

Remember 1991-92, when President George Bush's approval rating was over 90 percent, a result of his successful execution of the Gulf War? Remember what they called the Democratic presidential contenders, including Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton? They called them the Seven Dwarfs. Two of those dwarfs became the next president and vice president, and President Bush followed in the footsteps of Davy Crockett who, upon losing his seat in the House of Representatives, told his Tennessee constituents: "Y'all can go to hell; I'm a-goin' to Texas."

Now, the George W. Bush Express may not be heading for a similar derailment, but the fates are not kind to hubris, so this Texan has avoided the swelled-head disease as adroitly as he has avoided answering the tough questions. In fact...

  • G.W. Bush has a hand on the brake as well as the accelerator.

Sources tell us that Bush abruptly fired press secretary David Beckwith apparently for misleading reporters into thinking he raised less money than he had. The result was a second-day cycle of gee-whiz stories when the figure turned out substantially higher. In another election year, that would have meant job security for Beckwith. Instead, the press secretary's tactic was dubbed "slick" and "Clintonesque," adjectives Bush did not want identified with his campaign. Meanwhile...

  • G.W. is a-goin' to Iowa

Bush had planned to skip the Iowa straw poll that traditionally has been a summer fund-raiser looking ahead to presidential-nominating caucuses six months later. But this year's event, scheduled for Aug. 14 in Ames, is a popularity contest that could set the tone that decides who the nominees will be. Bush realizes its significance and is going all out. With some $36 million in his campaign coffers already, our sources say he will spend $1 million or $2 million on the visit, and consider it money well spent. Besides...

  • Elizabeth Dole will be there.

The event will give Bush a chance to size up a potential running mate, Elizabeth Dole. Her fast start as a presidential aspirant has slowed, but she remains a powerful campaigner. Some mulling over a Bush-Dole ticket applaud the combination of Bush's personal appeal and Dole's political know-how. Republican strategists would count on her to pull him back up if his popularity sagged in the polls, as it well may over time. And, above all, they like the idea that women voters are drawn to both. Bush won a second term as Texas' governor last year with 65 percent of the women's vote. Or...

  • Christie is ready.

Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, the pro-choice Republican from New Jersey, is ready if the eventual Republican nominee decides his conservative base is secure enough for him to leap to the center. Clearly...

  • This could be the true year of the woman.

Sources tell us that leaders in both parties are plotting strategies with a woman in the No. 2 slot. Usually, such war games would be left until well into next year, but the accelerated campaign calendar has pushed everything ahead. The way things are going, both tickets may be decided by March, long before the conventions and a full eight months before the November election.

Iowa and New Hampshire used to have the early voting all to themselves. Now, other states, including big ones like California and Michigan, are moving their primaries up to February and March to attract candidate and media attention. Advocates of shorter campaign periods, on the British model, are getting their wish.

On the Democratic side, front-runner Vice President Al Gore and his advisers are considering a number of vice-presidential possibilities, notably the former Democratic senator from New Jersey, Bill Bradley, to get him out of the way and lock up the top spot early on. But the pressure for a woman is strong, they agree, and the names most frequently mentioned include both California senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, New Hampshire Gov. Jane Shaheen and Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest of Robert Kennedy's children. Townsend could be the one.

-- Jack Anderson and Douglas Cohn are columnists for United Feature Syndicate.

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