The Politics Junkie: Back on the Back Burner

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NYT leads section with Katharine Q. Seelye's anatomy of a Gore rallying cry: "working families." The campaign even tested it with a hand-held "people meter," like the admen use on focus groups. Code for "waitress moms," which is code for "populism," which is code for Gore. WP leads harder with Richard Morin/Claudia Deane on new WP-ABC news poll... Boing! Gore takes 50-45 lead over Bush, 46-44 in a four-way race, "by easing doubts about his leadership ability and personal style while establishing himself with voters as the candidate best able to deal with the economy, education and health care reform." Busy week.

USAT's Judy Keen is with Bush as bouncee "unloaded on the Clinton administration's defense policies Monday, accusing the president and Vice President Al Gore of allowing the nation's military to decay." Change that subject, W. WSJ's Greg Jaffe is on it, though, with piece on Clinton unloading (money) back: "amid criticism from Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush that the military is short on soldiers and equipment, [Clinton] is set to give the Defense Department an unexpected boost to its budget for fiscal 2002." Bill Tries to Help, Gives Bush Argument Credibility.

Tuesday's Score: Gore 2, Bush 2. LAT abstains with Monday's paper. Only WP actually fronts with politics.


NYT's Kevin Sack, rolling on the river, finds a revel-in-the-details Gore who "finished his four-day riverboat tour of the Mississippi River with a floating seminar on tax policy." Rather than simply riding the tides of postconvention momentum, he has held a nautical forum on health insurance and given speeches on dry land about the environment and managed care..." And it seems to be going over.

WP's Mike Allen/Roberto Suro hears Bush issue "a strong indictment today of the Clinton administration's military policy, warning of its 'long neglect' of soldiers and 'a military in decline' — an assessment that drew an unusually swift and pointed response from the secretary of defense." This is one touchy bunch of lame ducks.

USAT's Martin Kasindorf checks in on "the quadrennial debate over debates," with Gore prodding his Republican opponent to consent to three face-offs sponsored by a bipartisan commission. Bush camp, confusingly, claims to have agreed to five. Let us know when it's all worked out.

WSJ's Bob Davis wryly catches Joe Lieberman doing damage control: "'There is no rational reason why the markets should be in any way adversely affected by the positions and policies and programs of the Gore-Lieberman ticket,' he said. Sen. Lieberman's remarks came after a weekend of business bashing by Mr. Gore..."

Notable: NYT's Adam Clymer polls eight different polls for a sampler of the bouncing Gore. Results may vary... WP's Ceci Connolly does the boat trip, giving us an image that could someday be the "I am not a crook" ironic memory of this campaign. "As the raindrops began to fall, he issued a challenge: 'If you don't want to hear specifics, now is your time to leave. Do you want to hear some specifics?'" Cut to helicopter, taking off without veep... USAT's AP finds Nader trying to dodge Gore triangulation: "'He's trying to make a passing grade in Populist 101.'" WSJ does another river moment: "'I'm giving you specifics before the election because I'm not afraid for you to know the facts,' the presidential nominee cried out. 'Do you want specifics?'... 'Yea,' replied the crowd of some 1,000 people." Wow.

Cue "Twilight Zone" Music

"Dr. Frankovic said the Gore bounce measured by the CBS News Poll had been exceeded only once in her polling, by Governor Bush's father. In 1988, she said, Vice President George Bush went from 17 point deficit to a 6 point lead over Gov. Michael S. Dukakis. Mr. Bush never trailed again." —NYT polls story

Politics sections are running pretty short Tuesday.


Heard in the papers

"Do you want specifics?" —Al Gore, to cheering crowd.

"The risk I took to talk specifics has paid off." —Gore, on his bounce

"I'd rather have a stiff president than a stupid one." —Dee Goss Westby, 71, of La Crosse, Wis., pitching slogans to Gore camp

"I realized I was coming to the edge the other night when I started shaking hands with the Secret Service agents." —Joe Lieberman, on the rigors of the trail, er, river

"Give the money back, Mr. Gore, or stand condemned of deceiving and misleading the American people." —Ralph Nader, in Los Angeles, on soft-money populism.

Tuesday's Stump Stops (NYT)

Gore/Lieberman: Milwaukee, Chicago, Winnetka, Ill.

Bush: Peoria, Ill.; Chesterfield, Mo.

Cheney: Teton County, Wyo.

Matters of Opinion

NYT's Gail Collins sums up the season — "we now understand that George W. Bush likes nothing better than to hang around with members of minority groups, that Al Gore likes nothing better than to hang around with Tipper, and that everybody in the Reform Party is crazy" — and takes your questions (really hers). Very original use of "Survivor" as comic conceit.

WP's E. J. Dionne blazes no new ground either, declaring this election really about choices on the issues, and thus important. Really.

WSJ gives the page to "lapsed Democrat" Harry Stein, that liberal media member who went right and wrote a book about it, which I've been meaning to read: "the convention only confirmed the depressing truth that in today's Democratic Party no one fails the ideological litmus tests and survives."

Best Lede

Quoth the Times: "The phrase is suddenly everywhere." —Katharine Q. Seelye on "working families."

And the election, suddenly, is back on the back burner. Anyone else want to boycott the Olympics?