Southern Republicans Gather For A Straw Poll
BILOXI, Miss. (Feb. 27) -- A slew of possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 will gather in this Gulf of Mississippi resort town this weekend to lay out their agendas and bash President Bill Clinton.
The hopefuls are unlikely to bring up the subject of their own sex lives as they vie for early support at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. But Clinton's may be fair game, as the Lewinsky controversy continues.
A number of familiar Republican faces are scheduled to speak to the group and there will be about 20 names on a crowded presidential straw poll ballot Saturday night.
Former vice president Dan Quayle got a rousing welcome on Thursday as the conference opened. Some supporters waved "Quayle-Bush" signs, looking forward to a possible 2000 ticket with Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the veep spot.
Quayle lost no time in going after Clinton on moral grounds.
"My friends, I'm proud to announce that I have a very tough anti-crime proposal for our party," Quayle said. "And here is the centerpiece of our anti-crime plank: three interns and you're out."
A federal grand jury is looking into reports that Clinton had a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and encouraged her to lie about it under oath. Clinton has flatly denied both accusations.
Both Quayle and 1996 GOP candidate Steve Forbes attacked Clinton over Iraq.
"If military action is required, our objective this time should be not to annoy Saddam Hussein, not to inconvenience Saddam Hussein, but to remove Saddam Hussein," Quayle said to cheers.
Forbes told the delegates, "It's one thing to waste our money, to raise our taxes, to burden us with regulations, because we can turn those things around. But it's quite another matter to take the sons and daughters of America and put them in harm's way without thinking the whole thing through."
GOP activists will also hear from Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri and Lamar Alexander, another 1996 candidate, before the three-day conference ends. The straw vote is Saturday night, with results expected Sunday.
CNN's Bruce Morton contributed to this report.