The coverage verdict this week is that Gore is on a roll and Bush is hitting a wall. This consensus was nicely bookended by Howard Kurtz WP pieces — Monday's account of Gore "fancy footwork" to put himself out front on health care and Bush on the defensive and Friday's piece on the Bush camp's Buddhist temple ad. Cheney is getting dumped on as the wrong guy for a close race. And Lieberman, well, WP's David Von Drehle, in a hilarious Cheney-on-the-stump story, calls Joe an "ebullient pistol of a running mate." Comparison noted.
Left-wing media bias? Doubtful. Considering the disdain Gore had been getting all summer, and the widespread plaudits for Bush after the GOP convention, Gore must be doing something to deserve this.
Gore: Campaigning round-the-clock all weekend, lots of union guys.
Bush: Taking it easy. Two baby-kissers Monday.
Jimmy Hoffa Jr. and the Teamsters announce their electoral preference. Two possibilities: A Gore endorsement (put smart money here), which throws another log on the veep's current fire, or neutrality, which nets Gore a raft of "uncertainty about his base" stories and Bush a chance to seize the wheel for a while.
Bush's prescription-drug plan fills the void on Tuesday.
Post-Labor day polls, and the aftermath of Bush's — gasp — first negative ad.
Al: Stay the course, you're doin' fine — and you just pulled ahead in Pennsylvania. Maybe have Joe ease off on the God stuff a little. It's distracting the reporters.
W.: Time for some deep thinking. If the Buddhist ad doesn't make a dent, "restoring honor and dignity" may officially be a loser. Education's a wash; so are old-folks issues like health care and Social Security (if you're lucky). Fiscal matters may decide this thing — so get your tax plan in shape. Too late to shrink it, but you can promise that you'll put a balanced budget first if elected. But if you want to get bold, here's a new theme:
Simplicity. An across-the-board cut has a clean, egalitarianism to it that Republicans own in the age of Clinton/Gore's social engineering through tax cuts — use that! Soften the $1.3 trillion tab by closing some corporate tax shelters — just a few egregious ones. Prove you're not out for the rich, you just want a simpler, fairer tax code for all. It's pure gold.