Because campaign manners do influence the style and quality of governance, it is bad when candidates go negative; it harms their prospects in office. Until recently, the Republican race has been somewhat more courteous than the Democratic one: Governor Bush has gone out of his way to say that Mr McCain, his chief rival, is a "good man", and Mr McCain has declined to join his fellow Republicans in attacking Mr Bush. This courtesy may, however, now be fading. The Democratic race was polite too at first but got less so as it tightened. If electoral competition promotes negative campaign tactics, today's bipartisan event on campaign finance is an extremely welcome surprise. In New Hampshire, independent voters are able to choose which primary to vote in, so Messrs McCain and Bradley are actually competing head to head for the votes. Their willingness to come together despite that should be commended, partly because it nudges the overall tone of the primaries in the direction of civility and partly because the cause espoused by the two candidates is deserving. The two candidates plan to pledge that, if each wins his party's nomination, he will call upon his party not to accept the unregulated "soft money" donations that were at the centre of the 1996 campaign scandals.
The New York Times
In the Republican debates, George Bush is gaining confidence but needs work. His injection of his religious awakening into the debate in Iowa this week was dismaying. About the gang of four who share the platforms with Bush and McCain: Only the voters can winnow the field, but it's up to the media and McCain to put on the heat to arrange a series of one- on-one GOP [Republican] "joint interviews". McCain needs the TV exposure to win the nomination, but Bush needs the experience of high-pressure public jousting even more to win the election. If Bush is unwilling or unable to go head-to-head with McCain now, Bradley, or especially Gore, will have his head on a platter later. And if the outsiders get the nominations? A serious campaign, surely, but far from dull.
George W Bush said in this week's debate that the McCain-Feingold reform bill would hurt Republicans by eliminating huge soft-money contributions, and he was right. But the bill would also restrict Democrat-leaning unions by preventing their use of funds from members' dues. The leading Democrat, Al Gore, calls Bradley a late arrival to the issue, but Bradley is riding it harder now. It is true that McCain and Bradley engage in some of the activities they deplore, taking contributions and cut-rate jet rides from wealthy influence-seekers. This only demonstrates how pervasive the corrosion is. People who write six-figure checks to politicians are not altruists; they are investors who expect a return. The resistance of McCain and Bradley is to be commended, but it will take more than handshakes to dislodge the system.
Who would prevail in a McCain vs Bradley contest? It is hard to say. McCain's star is still rising, while Bradley sits in firm and familiar orbit. Sen McCain's heroic POW background speaks powerfully to a population reigniting its love affair with the military after years of scepticism and deprecation. But to Americans, ballplayers are heroes too, and ones which they may very well love more intensely than their servicemen. Bradley's performance as a New York Knick, combined with his studied command of the issues and his seeming immunity to angry outbursts, would see him sitting pretty in the Oval Office with no apologies to John McCain.Reuse content