Presidential candidates prep in earnest for first votes of 2000
November 3, 1999
Web posted at: 6:40 p.m. EST (2340 GMT)
A host of presidential aspirants fanned out across the United States on Wednesday -- one day after a series of state and local off-year elections -- boosting their efforts to build up name recognition in preparation for the first votes of the 2000 election season.
Conservative talk show host Alan Keyes made a minor splash by becoming the first to officially file with the New Hampshire attorney general's office as a candidate for the state's first-in-the-nation Feb. 1 primary.
Keyes, who presented his $1,000 filing fee to attorney general William Gardner, declared that unless the Republican Party named him as its presidential nominee, the GOP could expect to be "slaughtered" at the polls one year from now.
"I think if G.W. Bush or (John) McCain or anybody like them, if
they are the nominees, we're gonna get so badly slaughtered we
won't even know what hit us because the American people want to see
the issues of character and moral integrity addressed," Keyes said.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and Arizona Sen. John McCain both made swings through New Hampshire Wednesday.
Bush, speaking in Derry, followed up on his moral education proposal of the previous day by suggesting that the strength of law and law enforcement should be increased to deal with the ongoing problems of divorced fathers who do not pay child support and unscrupulous gun dealers.
Vice President Al Gore, who also spent the day in Granite State, told reporters in Concord that he believed the legacy of President Bill Clinton would be the success of his administration's accomplishments, rather than the fallout of the president's affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Among Clinton's successes, in Gore's estimation, were the nation's record-setting economy, reductions in crime, and the elimination of the federal budget deficit.
I think his accomplishments are going to loom very large in the history books," Gore said.
Last week, the vice president, who finds himself pitted in a tough battle against former Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, criticized Clinton's comportment at a town-hall-style meeting on the campus of Dartmouth College.
Wednesday, Gore said Clinton was his "friend," but reiterated that he felt the same "disappointment and anger" that many in the country felt over the president's behavior.
Gore also renewed his challenge to Bradley, who holds a lead in polls of New Hampshire Democratic voters, to debate him once each week on a variety of issues.
In Iowa, GOP candidate and magazine publisher Steve Forbes said Wednesday he had accepted an invitation to participate in a local debate on Dec. 11, and Forbes challenged party front runner George W. Bush to meet him face-to-face at the event.
The debate is to be conducted by Iowa television station WOI.
Forbes, speaking in Fort Dodge, lambasted Bush for declining invites to two debates in New Hampshire earlier this month, saying, "Is he afraid that the American people will find out what he really stands for, or that he has no vision at all?"
The Bush camp responded that it was sifting through debate invitations for the month of December, and would soon announce which ones it would accept.
Meanwhile, Gary Bauer campaigned in Louisiana, laying the groundwork for that state's planned January 15 caucuses, but the state's best-laid plans seemed to be falling to pieces as he conducted his campaign swing.
State officials and Republican Party operatives had hoped to beat New Hampshire and Iowa to the punch as the first state in the nation to hold any sort of Election 2000 votes, but many backed away Wednesday from the idea of conducting any votes in January, citing an insufficient supply of voting machines, and disarray and disagreement withing the Republican Party.
Bush has not yet announced if will participate in the Louisiana vote. Louisiana's's Republican Governor Mike Foster had planned to run as a stand-in for Bush, but he said Wednesday that he had changed his mind, because "it's all going to fall apart."
"This effort to have a first-in-the-nation caucus is going to be a disaster," Foster said.
Nonetheless, Bauer pressed on with his three-day jaunt through the state, and took a clear shot at Bush for not yet making a statement about his intentions in Louisiana.
"Does the front runner get all weak-kneed because he's afraid Christians will show up to vote?" Bauer asked. "If he's the one to meet Al Gore,
he'll need Christians."
Looking further ahead than just the New Hampshire primary or the early caucuses, newly minted Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan mulled the possibility of legal action to force his way into debates between the Republican and Democratic nominees late next year.
The Buchanan camp has expressed fear that the Commission on Presidential Debates may exclude the Reform Party from the late-stage debates if Buchanan gains its nomination.
"The reason we believe we can do well in debates is my belief that we have a vision for this country," Buchanan said at his first news conference as a Reform candidate.
Janet Brown, the commission's executive director, said the panel
was busy setting the criteria for participation in the 2000 debates, and hoped to have the requirements ready by early next year.