Candidates take swipes at Bush
By DAVID YEPSEN, JEFF ZELENY and JONATHAN ROOS/DES MOINES REGISTER
August 11, 1999
Web posted at: 10:11 a.m. EDT (1411 GMT)
AMES, Iowa (Des Moines Register) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush is the front-running candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and that made him a target in Iowa Tuesday as several of his challengers went on the attack.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, publisher Steve Forbes and conservative activist Gary Bauer all jabbed at Bush for a variety of things: Hatch sniped at his money. Forbes said Bush didn't have any ideas. Bauer complained the son of former President George Bush was insensitive on abortion in a recent magazine interview.
A spokesman for Bush dismissed the attacks. Eric Woolson said Bush has raised money from over 80,000 people whose average donation was $500. He said unlike Forbes, Bush has a record in public office. The magazine interview did not accurately reflect Bush's views, he said.
Dole Gets Endorsement
By contrast, Elizabeth Dole ignored Bush in her campaigning and picked up a key endorsement Tuesday when Des Moines businessman John Ruan blessed her candidacy.
Hatch returned to the Iowa campaign trail Tuesday, one day after canceling a series of appearances to attend a fund-raiser in Montana.
Standing in the living room of a rural Knoxville home, Hatch leaned against a baby grand piano and candidly assessed his chances in this weekend's Ames straw poll and in the presidential race: "It wouldn't take a miracle to elect me, but pretty close."
But in the next breath, Hatch turned on his optimism, saying he's been an underdog his entire life and he can realistically win the race. Especially, he said, if Bush stumbles.
"I have the ideas, I have the experience, I have the record of accomplishment," Hatch said. "I'm going to take on George W. Bush like no one else can."
Hatch also criticized Bush's campaign fund-raising of more than $37 million, saying the Texas governor is beholden to special interests.
"We're after the skinny cats," Hatch said, encouraging people to take part in Saturday's straw poll in Ames. "If you come vote for us, you'll be members of the skinny cat club."
Forbes, at a campaign stop in Grundy Center Tuesday, took a couple of rhetorical swings at Bush.
Forbes said the race will become a contest between the Republican establishment and himself: "Clearly the status quo forces are rallying around Governor Bush."
Forbes said he also is the stronger candidate because he is running on issues. "If you have money but no issues, that equals mush. No message, no victory."
Bauer called a news conference in Des Moines Tuesday to criticize Bush for his comments in a story in Talk Magazine.
Bauer said Bush showed "a cavalier attitude toward the question of the sanctity of life" because he didn't know whether abortions had increased or decreased in Texas during his governorship.
Bauer also said Bush made fun of convicted murderer Carla Faye Tucker. "I'm pro-death penalty, but what I have not seen is anybody that would mock someone on death row."
Bush's spokesman Woolson said the Talk magazine article "did not always reflect his sentiments. Anyone who knows the governor knows the Karla Faye Tucker decision was very emotional and agonizing and he took it very seriously."
Woolson also addressed Forbes' charge that Bush lacks ideas. Bush "has been talking specifics on national defense, taxes, budget and welfare reform," Woolson said.
"Unlike some of the other candidates in the race, Governor Bush has a job where he's called on to make decisions," Woolson said. "He has a record and voters have appreciated his stances."
Dole, meanwhile, declined to take shots at Bush, preferring to trumpet her endorsement from Ruan, who is a leading Republican donor in the state. He has been quietly backing Dole but he went public Tuesday following her speech to the Bull Moose Club in Des Moines.
"I hope you'll vote for her," Ruan told the group of about 50 people who had gathered in the building that bears his name. He said none of the other candidates "has the experience in government that Mrs. Dole has" and he promised to go to Ames and vote for her in the straw poll.
In other campaign developments, Forbes signed on some staffers who had been working for Ohio Congressman John Kasich's campaign. Kasich's Iowa director Karen Slifka, field coordinator De Byerly and field director Matt Loney have gone to work for Forbes.
Click here for more Iowa straw poll coverage from the Des Moines Register.