Re: That's *Doctor* Albright to you, Mr. Fielding...
Wed, 6 Oct 1999 14:13:51 -0400

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>In the press somewhere yesterday that I can't for the life
>of me find, they were talking about electability. Clinton was quoted
>on Gore's uninspiredness,
> "The only reason he's running for President is because of
> his father [Al Gore Sr.]...he would have been much more suited
> to a more solitary profession like a professor."


The watchword for the nominating
process in both parties as the 2000
presidential election approaches is
"electability." George W. Bush has
secured his overwhelming lead in the
Republican primaries because of a
perception that he can win. Oddly, it
was W.'s huge early lead in the polls
over Al Gore that helped him acquire a
big lead in the GOP field. Now, Bill
Bradley is duplicating the trick in the
Democratic primaries.

In 1988, Massachusetts Gov. Mike
Dukakis won the "money primary,"
piling up a war chest that dwarfed what
his competitors were able to raise. In
1992, Bill Clinton won the "intellectual
primary," convincing the media that he
had the ideas, substance and brainpower
to propose new solutions to our
problems. Clinton's lead in gray cells
helped him survive the early scandals
(Gennifer Flowers, the draft and
Whitewater) and win the

This year, electability is the key. While
Bush has accumulated a massive bank
account, the money comes from the
perception that he can win, not the other
way around.

After the crushing
humiliation that followed the heady days
of the Contract With America, the GOP
is in no mood to indulge its ideologies if
it means four more years in the
wilderness. The obsessive focus of
Republican primary voters these days is
to win. Victory is more important than
abortion, gun control, taxes or any other
hot button issue. "Just go out and win" is
the mandate from GOP voters.

Bush showed a surprising early lead
against Gore as Clinton sank deeper into
scandal after his 1996 re-election.
Pollsters were initially shocked to see
Bush with a double-digit lead over the
vice president. When Monica surfaced,
W.'s lead increased as the vice president
loyally walked the plank to defend his

Echoing his father's honesty, personal
integrity and damn-the-polls
self-confidence, W. looked
better and better as Gore looked worse
and worse. But W. still faced a tough
race against Elizabeth Dole, who was
only 10 or 15 points behind him in most
GOP polling. Dole's inability to raise
money or get started, however,
undermined the sense that she was

As W. continued to showcase huge leads
against Gore, word spread throughout
the GOP: Bush can win. Money flowed
in. His message got out. Bush was on his

Where Clinton always radiated
self-doubt and insecurity with his public
apologies, pandering and coverups,
Bush shows a sense of being
comfortably in charge, able to ride the
waves and take it as it comes. When he
criticizes his own party in Congress for
proposing to meet spending caps by
delaying tax credit payments to
low-income workers, or when he hues to
his centrist line even before the
Christian Coalition, he looks and sounds
like a winner. It is this very perception
that he can "handle it" that animates his
rise in the polls.

The more Bush looks like a winner, the
more Gore looks like a loser. The very
issue of electability that impelled W.'s
rise is now triggering Gore's fall as
momentum shifts from Gore to Bradley.
The vice president's inability to hold his
own against Bush is creating a
self-fulfilling cycle that robs him of
votes in the Democratic primaries and
benefits Bradley.

New York Sen. Daniel
Patrick Moynihan summed it up with his
usual pithiness by saying that there is
nothing wrong with Gore, but "he just
can't be elected." Faced with the loss of
the White House, pragmatic Democrats
are taking their cue from the GOP and
turning off Gore because they think he is

Bradley increasingly looks like a winner
as Gore looks like a candidate destined
to fail. He's caught up in key states. His
fund raising in the last quarter matched
Gore. He seems able to conserve his
cash even as the vice president seems to
have a hole in his pocket through which
cash spills out. Unable to summon the
courage to prune his bloated staff by
firing them, Gore does not help his
image by moving to another city in the
hope that most of his employees
voluntarily resign rather than pack up
and follow him. Gore's revolving door
of consultants suggests a man at sea,
unable to get his footing or

Perception, in both parties, is becoming
reality. Bush is winning because he's
winning. Gore is losing because he's

Can Gore pull out of his
nose dive? Yes. Will he? The
doubt nags. His ethical obtuseness in
choosing Tony Coelho, he of the S & Ls
and bounced checks, as his campaign
chairman suggests that Gore may not
know how to recover. Anyone with half
a brain could have told Gore that Coelho
was a disaster waiting to happen.

Gore's problem is his message, not his
mechanics - his substance not his style.
Increasingly, Gore staffers speak of the
need to attack Bradley's "flip-flops" on
issues. If they think a negative campaign
will work, they're wrong. Only a
positive theme, larger than mini issues
grounded in his past environmentalism,
will Gore get back on track.

By the time he realizes it, he may be too

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