The Phony War

Politics and policy.
May 1 1999 3:30 AM

The Phony War

What's behind the Bradley surge and the Gore stumble? Not much.

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The progression of the campaign will also rescue Gore from his Vice Presidential Malaise. The Democratic fretfulness about Gore's polls is premature: Vice presidents always poll terribly in the year before their presidential campaign. George Bush, you may remember, trailed Gary Hart in 1987 polls, and Newsweek even ran a cover story about Bush and "the wimp factor." Gore has been Clinton's lackey for more than six years. He's loyal to his president, and that loyalty makes him look ineffectual. (George W. Bush kills Gore in poll questions about "leadership." Bush is the manly governor of Texas, while Gore moderates Reinventing Government seminars.)

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The cure for the phony war will be the real one. Come fall and winter, surges and stumbles will really mean something. By then Gore will be campaigning seriously, distancing himself from Clinton, and running macho ads; Bradley will have defined his big ideas and endured the inevitable media backlash to his current rave notices; and the voters will actually be paying attention.

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