Jewish World Review Feb. 8, 2000 /2 Adar I, 5760
Vice President Al Gore has won the first caucus and the first primary, but only narrowly here. Now he faces a bruising, multi-state contest with former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., who promises to continue questioning Gore's integrity.
On the Republican side, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, supposedly the anointed one, was rejected by more than 60 percent of New Hampshire primary voters. Last week, he was rejected by 59 percent in Iowa. This does not add up to a ringing endorsement of his leadership.
Despite Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz., smashing victory here, Bush still has to be counted the favorite for the GOP nomination, but he's not quite as prohibitively favored as he was last week.
Somehow, Bush has to do in upcoming GOP contests what Bradley did on the Democratic side -- quit dogging and start fighting. Bush's methods may be different -- he's determined not to go strongly negative on McCain -- but he has to find a way to make his message vivid.
Bradley, whacked in Iowa, recovered here by playing offense instead of just defense. He not only responded to Gore's "distortions" of his program and record, but also found flaws in Gore's record -- especially on abortion.
Gore claimed -- and claims -- to have always supported "a woman's right to choose," but the fact is he wrote letters in the 1980s calling abortion "wrong" and he once voted for a resolution declaring a fetus to be "human life from the moment of conception."
Instead of just admitting he changed his mind as he moved from being a Tennessee congressman and senator to a politician with national ambitions, Gore tried to claim he's always been true-blue pro-choice. Bradley used the "l" word -- "lie" -- about Gore. He also used the "s" word -- "scandal."
The former New Jersey senator ran ads raising doubts about Gore's pro-choice record. And he also began using the "i" word -- "integrity" -- clearly meaning to imply that Gore lacks it.
Bradley volunteers in New Hampshire put tags on the doorknobs of independent voters' homes urging a vote "for Bradley and Integrity."
"There's a ghost hiding behind this tactic," said one major Bradley fund-raiser. "The ghost is Clinton." Bradley never mentioned President Clinton, but the implication is that Gore is Clintonesque in his disrespect for the truth.
Exit polls show that among the 54 percent of New Hampshire Democratic voters who have an unfavorable view of Clinton as a person, Bradley won by 58 to 39 percent.
Among the 42 percent of those who view him favorably, Gore scored 67 percent to Bradley's 32 percent. The lesson: Bradley has to be careful how he uses the "integrity" issue, but it works for him.
Gore supporters obviously hoped he would score a knockout victory here. They have to be disappointed as the contest rolls on -- and, presumably, gets nastier.
One of Bush's top operatives here said, "We're hoping the Democrats keep it going till June." Obviously, that would help Bush -- assuming he is the GOP nominee.
That prospect is still likely, but it's not as certain as it once was. It's likely because upcoming states -- Delaware, South Carolina and Michigan -- are more establishmentarian than New Hampshire, and Bush has vastly more money than McCain.
Multimillionaire Steve Forbes proved to be a bust here, getting only 13 percent of the vote after spending lavishly. He is vowing to keep harassing Bush, however, in Delaware.
It wouldn't hurt Bush to slam Forbes in Delaware as Bradley did Gore here, but the Texas governor's greater problem is how to excite GOP voters with his themes of compassionate conservatism and big tax cuts.
Here in New Hampshire, voters obviously responded better to McCain's message of political reform and "saving Social Security."
It may be true -- and it probably is -- that New Hampshire is an atypical state that loves to shake up the status quo and represents nothing nationally.
On the other hand, Bush has to be worried about the fact that no Republican has ever been elected president without winning New Hampshire. And he has to do something about
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?