GOP Hopefuls Visit New Hampshire, Iowa
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 17) -- Possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 are testing early the political waters in the key states of New Hampshire and Iowa.
Though the attention of voters has barely turned to the 1998 midterm congressional election, many lesser-known hopefuls are starting to lay the groundwork for a possible presidential run.
Republicans also see their possible Democratic opponents as vulnerable in the case the sex-and-perjury allegations surrounding President Bill Clinton are proven.
Sen. John Ashcroft spent last weekend in Iowa and will travel next to New Hampshire. Considered a dark horse, the Missouri senator was careful to point out he is not campaigning for the White House. "I'm not a candidate for president. I am exploring the possibility," Ashcroft said.
Ashcroft has made public statements questioning the president's credibility concerning Clinton's denials of an affair with a former White House intern and asking her to lie about it. "Mr. President, you cannot plead the Fifth Amendment to the American people," he said.
While visiting Iowa Monday, Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire went even further in attacking Clinton, linking the Lewinsky scandal with possible military action in Iraq.
Suggesting that Clinton has lost the "moral authority" to order air strikes, Smith said, "He has a severe credibility problem. He has it with the media. He has it with the American people. ... If he can't tell me the truth about this, is he telling me the truth about Iraq?"
But during his visit to New Hampshire, Rep. John Kasich of Ohio disputed that view. "I think in terms of whether we take military action in Iraq (should be) based on the facts," Kasich told a women's club.
"If the president can make a case, which I think he can, about Saddam Hussein holding weapons of mass destruction, what are we going to do, do nothing?" Kasich asked.
Kasich plans to spend the week in the Granite State and has already raised a substantial amount of money for a possible campaign.
Other GOP contenders have been travelling to politically important states as well. Publisher Steve Forbes, who made a failed bid for the GOP nomination in 1996, is on an eight-week, 14-state campaign against the tax code.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Education Secretary Lamar Alexander and former Vice President Dan Quayle all have busy travel schedules planned as well.