Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Presidential Campaign 2000

By Jack Moczinski

FEBRUARY 23, 1999:  Vice President Al Gore was the first officially registered candidate for president, and others have formed their exploratory committees. The race for president in 2000 is on. Over the next year, we'll see all the shuffling of candidates, background checks and palm pressing.

In 1999, though, the real battle will not be with the voters, but with the donors. In years past, the candidates closest to raising $20 million in the primary campaign have won. Not surprisingly, Gore is using the office of the Vice President to launch his campaign--and to try to present Democrats around the nation with the inevitability of a Gore nomination. He's announced just about every major policy statement for the White House outside of the State of the Union address.

On the Democratic side, former Sen. Bill Bradley, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Jesse Jackson have all indicated interest in the presidential race. Bradley has already formed his official exploratory committee, and he's started to raise a bunch of money. Still, raising money for a presidential race is very different from raising money for the U.S. Senate. Bradley enjoys a strong national following, developed by making campaign-like speeches over the last two years and writing a couple of books. Bradley looks to be the one who can get closest to Gore.

Kerry's potential campaign is basically plagued with the question of whether he will use his wife's fortune to finance his campaign. If that is the case, he is a contender. If he has to raise his own money, life will be tougher for Kerry. Sensing the overwhelming power of Gore, Kerry may resist the race. But for now, he's getting all the free press he can by making himself available at all times for comment on the Senate impeachment trial.

On the Republican side, many have entered the running early to try and scare off the assumed nominee, Texas Gov. George Bush, Jr. Bush is a moderate candidate, someone the Republicans believe has the image and profile of a candidate who can win Democratic votes in the general election. Coming from a big state like Texas, with strong financial backing, Bush is the most serious contender of the Republican bunch.

However, Bush has a bit of a past that some Republican moralists may try to exploit in light of the President Clinton scandal. It's important to keep in mind that the nominating process on the Republican side is a tricky situation for moderate Republicans. Conservative states like Iowa and New Hampshire that have early primaries pit strong moderate candidates against conservative Republicans. Voters from the party's far right wing are generally more motivated to go to the polls during primaries. And they are motivated to vote based on issues.

One of the candidates likely to cause trouble in the Republican primary is Gary Bauer, of the conservative Family Research Council. No one can capture the far right of the party better than Bauer. Without raising too much money, Bauer can do well in conservative states and provide himself with the momentum to generate campaign cash and hang in the race until the Republican National Convention.

If Bauer and a moderate candidate are the only ones left by convention time, Bauer can either try for the nomination or make demands of the eventual nominee. Some leftover candidates from 1996 are running, but there appears to be little fire behind their candidacies.

Steve Forbes, the multi-millionaire, has made the obligatory visits to New Hampshire, but offers little to excite Republicans. Lamar Alexander has been campaigning since he dropped out in 1996. He has built a good grassroots organization in Iowa and New Hampshire. Elizabeth Dole, the former head of the Red Cross and the former Secretary of Labor, is looking at the presidency. The likelihood that she can win is very slim. Instead, she may be positioning herself for the vice presidential nomination.

Former Vice President Dan Quayle is thinking of running. But since he is still trying to learn how to spell "potato," he may not have the time for a campaign.

Finally, Arizona Sen. John McCain has formed his exploratory committee. He'll have difficulty raising money, but is hoping that his reputation as a tough candidate scares others out of the race.

Over the next six months, the weak candidates will drop away, and the real contenders will be identified. But what will eventually separate the men from the boys will be who can raise the most money this year.


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