VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Gore has all the advantages, of course, and almost certainly will be the Democratic nominee in 2000. Conventional wisdom assumes his approach to governance is nearly identical to President Clinton’s, but Gore is the leader of the anti-growth wing of the Democratic Party while Clinton has been more amenable to market-based economic growth. Clinton also thinks like a politician, while Gore thinks like a lawyer. Concern about a Gore presidency is one of the reasons the national electorate hesitated about removing Clinton because of his private sexual behavior. He could become President if the Republican nominee cannot persuade the electorate that he can be trusted with a GOP Congress. The electorate would prefer to keep Congress in GOP hands.
BILL BRADLEY: Arianna Huffington has a good line about Gore and Bradley’s “woodenness.” Gore, she says, is wooden and shallow, while the former New Jersey Senator and New York Knick is “wooden and deep.” Bradley never has run for national office so he is green as grass on that account. After 18 years in the Senate, he did not win a single endorsement from his former colleagues and only has two endorsements from office-holders, as far as I can tell, both NJ state senators. A recent NJ match-up does show him defeating Gore in his home state. Bradley’s issues are more interesting than Gore’s, as he spent his career on tax policy, international trade, and race relations. It would be nice to think Bradley could overtake Gore, but his inexperience at this level of play and his tendency to be disorganized will be a major drag on his chances. Without a power base, he also will have difficulty raising money, unless he can skunk Gore in the early primaries.
SEN. JOHN F. KERRY of Massachusetts, 56, would have the money to make the run, perhaps as a run-up to 2004. A bit off-beat, I think he’d do surprisingly well but would risk the enmity of the organization if he bloodied Gore in the process.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The son of the former GOP President almost certainly will run as the party organization’s favored candidate. As Bob Novak indicates in his column today, the Texas governor already is assembling a brain trust. We can now anticipate his campaign agenda by the kind of people he is choosing for his team. Former Fed Gov. Larry Lindsey heads the economic unit and Harvard Prof. Martin Feldstein, who at one point was chairman of the Reagan council of economic advisors, also has signed on. Both are dreadful choices -- conservative Keynesians who styled themselves as “supply siders” to gain entry to the Reagan administration. Novak reports that young George has barred Michael Boskin and Dick Darman from his team, as both are identified with his father’s 1990 tax increase. Bush also has attracted Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle as his national security advisors, as both were hard-line Reagan Cold Warriors. The problem is that neither is happy without a war. Bush will get all the money and attention he wants in his bid, and will be high in the polls only until the electorate pays attention. Either Gore or Bradley would easily beat this Bush team, which reminds us that in presidential politics, young George is as green as grass.
DAN QUAYLE: With his campaign HQ in Phoenix, where he moved with his golf clubs from Indiana, the former vice president is serious about being the Growth candidate in 2000 after having sat out the 1996 race. He’s been stereotyped as a not-very-bright eternal juvenile, but I agree with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that he is among the most underrated politicians in the world. Woodward calls him “fearless,” in that he speaks his mind without taking polls or focus groups, a la Reagan. Ordinary people mainly know him as having a pleasing personality and a nice family. When he heard Jack Kemp stepped back from the race, he called and asked for my help, which I’m happy to do for all candidates who want supply-side advice. Quayle was known for having a staff far superior to that of his boss, President Bush, and he has already been drawing on the best supply-side economists around. His WSJ op-ed last month advocating a 30% across-the-board tax cut was almost perfect in philosophy. Of all the candidates, Quayle has the highest potential of bringing in a GOP Congress -- perhaps with the hint of Kemp at Treasury and Colin Powell at State, both men he greatly admires.
STEVE FORBES: Having spent $37 million of his own in trying for the nomination in 1996, Forbes seems ready to take the plunge again. Beaten up in 1996 by the Christian right, he’s made his peace with the cultural conservatives, but in doing so has muddied his identity, now betwixt and between. If I were he, I’d shoot for the NJ Senate seat in 2000 or, better yet, throw in with Quayle and run for NJ governor in 2001. As it is, he has to compete with GARY BAUER of the Family Research Council and SEN. BOB SMITH of New Hampshire for the early-primary cultural conservatives. PAT BUCHANAN has not yet decided to make a third try, and somehow I think he will not.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN of Arizona has the support of Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, who raised a ton of money in 1996 from macho men with megabucks in his presidential bid and proceeded to get practically no votes. Both McCain and Gramm are pit bulls who don’t understand that while voters frequently choose pit bulls to represent them in the Senate or the House, they will not vote to put them in the Oval Office. McCain is a hairy-chested bomber, who speaks the language of Perle and Wolfowitz in wanting to “get” Saddam Hussein at all costs. When Gen. Anthony Zinni, the Marine Corps commander, recently testified before the Senate Armed Services committee against the idea of supporting Iraqi opposition groups in the hope they will oust Saddam, McCain upbraided him for being weak.
ELIZABETH DOLE seems to be making plans to run, but one suspects she is running for the vice presidency, which I can’t see happening either. Hubby Bob had a “vision problem” and so does she. Like Quayle, REP. JOHN KASICH, chairman of the Budget Committee, speaks his mind, but is also green at this level of politics. Former Tennessee Gov. LAMAR ALEXANDER is experienced but can’t compete with Bush for the organization’s support, which is all he has going for him.
This is the first of several run-downs on the 2000 race you can expect this year. I’ll have a separate piece on Quayle’s potential in a few weeks. Our client conference at The Breakers in Florida later this week will have as a speaker his campaign manager, Kyle McSlarrow. We’re pleased to say Commerce Secretary Bill Daley will be with us, as will Senate Budget Chairman Pete Dominici, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, Rep. Lindsey Graham, Bob Mundell, and Senate Y2K Chairman Bob Bennett of Utah. See you there!