Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 1999 /22 Kislev, 5760
the Gore Camp
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A presidential campaign manager's lot is not all high
strategy. Al Gore's manager, Donna Brazile, the first black woman ever
elevated to such eminence, is this day dickering with some New Hampshire
supporters who want to hold their anticipated victory party at a venue she
considers too expensive.
She wants a cheaper place so more of the spending permitted under the
legal cap for New Hampshire (applicable to candidates accepting federal
matching funds) can be used to bombard voters mercilessly with praise of
Gore. But of victory over Bill Bradley, there and for the nomination, Gore's
people are confident--be they at the low-rent headquarters here, far from the
fleshpots of Washington, or in their Washington offices. Their thinking is as
Gore plans to beat Bradley soundly in Iowa, where his lead is large and (so
far) steady, then in New Hampshire, with help there from John McCain,
who is on fire with the New Hampshire independents Bradley needs. Gore
has arrested his slide in New Hampshire by attacking Bradley's plan to
abolish Medicaid as part of health care reform. (Real Democrats flinch from
abolishing anything not associated with defense, no matter the reason.)
Gore's people say Bradley's policy mistakes include his (sensible) refusal (so
far) to categorically oppose raising the Social Security retirement age.
But suppose Bradley wins New Hampshire (Feb. 1). There will not be
another delegate selection event until March 7, when Bradley will learn how
proportional allocation of delegates to the Democratic National Convention
prevents a challenger from stampeding the process. For example, in 1984,
when California awarded delegates winner-take-all by congressional district,
Gary Hart barely beat Walter Mondale there, 43 percent to 40 percent, but
won 204 delegates to Mondale's 73. Under today's strict proportional
allocation, the delegate distribution would have been 128-124.
Both candidates will have to campaign selectively in the 17 states with
primaries on March 7. They include New England states, New York (where
proportional allocation will limit Bradley's sweep), and California (Gov. Gray
Davis and the well-oiled labor machine are solidly for Gore). And Georgia,
where Gov. Roy Barnes, a Gore supporter, recently unsheathed the L-word,
lambasting Bradley as a "Northeastern, elitist, old-time liberal," adding:
"History has shown time and again, when you run from the Northeastern
elite to the left, you get beat."
Barnes's blast is telling because March 14 primaries include Tennessee,
Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi. Gore's campaign
believes that for their man, but not for Bradley, virtually every state is in
play. In some southern primaries blacks may exceed 40 percent of the
turnout. Gore will be all over black radio saying "Medicaid" and riding the
updraft--yes, updraft--from his association with Clinton.
Bradley can be amusing when he gets down to James Polk in his list of
presidents he prefers to Clinton. Black Democrats are not amused. And
there will be a lot of black delegates at the Los Angeles convention.
Furthermore, although Bradley does well with men (as does his nemesis
McCain), most Democratic primary voters are women. The two most
important votes Bradley cast in his 18 years in the Senate were against
authorizing the use of force in the Gulf War and against the 1996 welfare
reform, which repealed a 60-year-old entitlement and imposed a five-year
lifetime limit on eligibility for welfare. Bradley does not endorse the time
Senator Gore voted to authorize force. He was vice president when welfare
reform was signed by a reluctant president but seems less skeptical than he
did then, perhaps because welfare rolls are down about 50 percent. Both of
Bradley's votes would burden him in the general election. However, the
Democratic nominating electorate adores entitlements and has an
anti-military cast, especially in Iowa, where Bradley, in full-court pander,
recently called for more defense cuts. So Gore can only attack Bradley's
two biggest Senate votes gingerly, if at all. However, Gore has a huge
delegate advantage already. About 20 percent of delegates to the
convention, approximately 40 percent of the total needed to nominate, will be
"super delegates"--Democratic members of Congress, senators, governors
and other grandees. Of the 797, about 700 are already known, and Gore's
people claim a lock on 500 of them, with another 100 obtainable.
Gore's people say he does not have to win everything to hold the super
delegates. They say that in the past two decades, no delegate, super or
otherwise, has defected after committing to a candidate. Which is why
Brazile says, "Bradley will have to not just beat us but whip us" in the
primaries. Which is not
Comment on JWR contributor George Will's column by clicking here.
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©1999, Washington Post Writer's Group