|THE BUDGET SURPLUS|
July 2, 1999
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot discuss Campaign 2000 and the congressional battles of the budget surplus.
JIM LEHRER: And to Shields and Gigot, on the money race and other political matters of the week. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot. Paul, how do you explain George W. Bush's extraordinary ability to raise money?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, I agree with everything that Dan Balz said, and would I add one other thing, which I think is a secret that hasn't been stressed much but really has helped him and that's the governors, his fellow governors, because in a sense, George W. Bush won the governor's primary. They all got down and sat down and in unofficial off-the-record conversations here and they said, you know, we've got to bring somebody, one of our people in to be the nominee. And they decided George W. Bush had the best chance to win, but each of these governors have enormous fund-raising bases themselves, Tom Ridge in Pennsylvania, John Engler in Michigan, and a lot of these things have been used to -- now that they have endorsed George W. Bush, are going to -- to his advantage.
JIM LEHRER: What would you add to that, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, with all deference and respect to the governors, I mean, he just had a week -- a record-breaking week in California -- where there's a Democratic governor. I mean, this is awesome. This is spectacular. We've seen candidates in the past who have raised a lot of money, Phil Gramm, the senator from Texas, in 1996. He never registered in the polls. John Connolly, the former governor of Texas, a little pattern here emerges, who raised -
JIM LEHRER: Just keep talking, Shields.
MARK SHIELDS: -- money in 1980 but never registered in the polls. Steve Forbes, who has very deep pockets, the millionaire publisher of Forbes Magazine, has never registered in the votes. This is a twin towers. This is a double threat; this is a man with a 50-point lead in the public opinion polls and with Pat Buchanan this afternoon, with a $34.5 million lead over Pat Buchanan in fund-raising.
|What's generating all the cash?|
JIM LEHRER: So is it his -- is it how well he's doing with the public in the polls that's making the money come?
PAUL GIGOT: Sure.
JIM LEHRER: Or is it the other way around?
PAUL GIGOT: It's both. They have a kind of cascading effect. One builds on the other. There's no question about it. People see that he's the likely winner. They want to get on board. That creates more money, more momentum, and -- and conversely takes out everybody else -- his ability to make money.
JIM LEHRER: And your examples show money alone ain't going to get it.
MARK SHIELDS: No. But I think the numbers are what do it, and I think what has been underestimated certainly by me and I think by other people who cover politics is how much the Republican activists dislike Bill Clinton and want a winner. I mean, George W. Bush, Dan was talking about his -- the questions he got in California. Governor Bush -- I mean, the toughest question he gets is "how is your mother?" I mean, they are not asking him the usual "where are you on school prayer - you know, are you against the McCain tobacco bill or whatever else?" There's very little in a tough litmus test. I mean, they are just saying you're a winner, are you okay, you're still governor. Family is all right. That's basically the cross-examination.
PAUL GIGOT: Let me give you an example of that. This week in California he was endorsed by Ward Connerly. Now, Ward Connerly is the activist who has done a lot in California and elsewhere to oppose affirmative action, racial preferences. He won the referendum in California. His brother, Jeb Bush, the governor's brother in Florida said don't come here and George W. Bush has not exactly embraced his cause and yet, here's Ward Connerly saying he's my guy. Now, that's a pretty good one-on-one -- I don't know what he said to him in private but he somehow managed to bring him onboard.
JIM LEHRER: Well, as Dan just told Margaret just kind of in passing, we're 16 months away from an election. I mean, do you see anything -- I mean, I realize I won't hold you to this. Maybe I will hold you to it.
|Keeping the momentum.|
PAUL GIGOT: Yes, you will.
JIM LEHRER: Yes, I will hold you to this, but do you see anything in the road ahead for George W. Bush, anything specific that could trip him up?
PAUL GIGOT: Voters.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah.
PAUL GIGOT: And in the sense that these are the elites of the Republican Party speaking. And that's a very important message they are sending and money is going to help him a lot but he is going to have to actually get down in two states, New Hampshire and Iowa, and go head-to-head with voters. I assume he can't dodge debates forever.
JIM LEHRER: And his expectations are so high now he's got to just do extremely well everywhere or he's had it?
PAUL GIGOT: Well, he's got to win the Ames Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa, in August. Right now he's certainly the favorite. He could afford to perhaps lose in one of these states, but it may -- he's at least got to get down and start saying more specific about his agenda.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MARK SHIELDS: I was in the contrarian state of New Hampshire this past week, and John McCain, one of the -- trailing the pack would-be challenger, tried to make the case on George Bush that the fund-raising becomes a liability for him. In other words, that he -- he, Governor Bush, Paul points out the establishment of the party is behind him, that this is -- this is the candidate now of the status quo, that because it's the K Street establishment of lobbyists here in town, it's the traditional Republican givers, the House and the Senate and the Congress backing him. This is not an agent of change. Now, the sense if it ever gets abroad that the fix is in and that the voters have been cut out of this, whether in Iowa or New Hampshire and they say, "Hey, wait a minute, we want to have a voice in this" that will be a part of the case made by his challengers.
PAUL GIGOT: There's one other thing, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
PAUL GIGOT: It may be that because he's doing so well and some of these other candidates have to drop out earlier than you would have thought, that there will be some pressure among -- some talk among conservatives to coalesce around one candidate. Maybe Forbes who has the resources to go all the way, maybe somebody else, and that person then can carry the debate better than a diffuse field.
JIM LEHRER: Now Bill Bradley, Mark, he also did well raising money. Why? Why is he doing so well?
MARK SHIELDS: I mean, Bill Bradley, again, is a person whose career has been characterized by enormous discipline, whether it's playing basketball, whether it's studying an issue in the Senate, and he realized to be a serious candidate that he had to, that there is now a money primary that closed on June 30th when the reporting date ends the year before but also to be competitive you had to have $20 million, and he set about doing it. Over an 18-year career in the Senate and a career as an author and as a professional athlete, Bill Bradley has been preparing for this, and he's got a rolodex that probably is as impressive as Bill and Hillary Clinton's was in 1992.
PAUL GIGOT: Always been a great fund-raiser, a lot of ties to Hollywood, to the sporting community, and he benefits because he's not part of this administration and for every Democrat who doesn't like this administration, for some decision or another, doesn't like Al Gore, they're going to go for him. I'd say there's one other thing. George W. Bush helps Bill Bradley because the more that George Bush looks like he's beating Al Gore in the polls by 15 points, which is what he's doing now, the more it makes a lot of Democrats say, geez, I'm not so sure that Al Gore is the guy -- the horse we want to ride.
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
PAUL GIGOT: And so we'll give Bill Bradley a look and certainly let's write him a check because we want - we want to see.
JIM LEHRER: Do you see it the same way?
MARK SHIELDS: I do. I mean, I think that the argument -- the analogy that old-timers use is that this is 1968, and Hubert Humphrey because of his relationship with Lyndon Johnson, because of the scars and scar tissue of the wars was a beloved and favorite son, standard bearer for the Democrats but was liability and probably couldn't beat Richard Nixon, whereas a Gene McCarthy, probably McCarthy would resist this analogy and so would Bradley, as an outsider Senator, not tied to the administration at that point would have a better chance.
|Dividing up the surplus.|
JIM LEHRER: Another subject. The federal surplus contest. President Clinton said this week Medicare, Social Security, bring down the national debt first. The Republicans said, no tax cuts too. Who won the contest, or does it even matter at this stage?
PAUL GIGOT: Too early to tell who won the contest. I will say this: Republicans got a dose of confidence. They didn't necessarily earn, but they are going to take anyway, and that is that the surplus, I think, is going to give them a lot more confidence to cut taxes. It's going to say we can get away with cutting taxes without running into the Social Security surplus. We cordon that off, and so we don't have to fight on that ground, that issue where we're weaker, and so I think you're going to see now the Republicans pass in both Houses, Senate and House, a fairly substantial tax cut this year. Now whether the President will sign it or not, who knows, but I think they're going to at least put it on his desk.
MARK SHIELDS: Democrats expect that Bill Clinton, President Clinton, would veto that -- that tax -- such a tax is passed but eventually there would be some compromise reached. I think what we're seeing now is golden oldies. I mean, each party is playing the song that -- that they remember from their glory days. The Republican tax cuts in '80 and '84 and somehow it's a way of evoking a memory of the gipper. For the Democrats, it's let's go back to what's worked for us. 1982 when they resurged in the house after the first Reagan landslide, a sense of bringing Social Security, Medicare, those issues up that the Republicans weren't good on.
JIM LEHRER: So would it be a mistake to suggest that probably nothing is going to happen on this before the 2000 election? We're just talking here?
MARK SHIELDS: I'm not sure. If -- the Republicans, I think I'd like to get Medicare off the board. I don't want to go into the election at 2000 with Bill Clinton having framed the issue and they know -- they have seen from previous experience how he's capable of framing an issue. They would just as soon not have that be the central defining issue of the campaign of 2000.
PAUL GIGOT: I talked to Democrat Bob Torricelli -- I know he's Mark's favorite Democrat this week. He said -
JIM LEHRER: He's chairman of the Senate Campaign Committee?
PAUL GIGOT: That's right. He has to elect Democratic Senators and he's saying that he thinks that Democrats, as many as 15 in the Senate, would support a tax cut up to $500, $600 billion over ten years. That's a pretty good tax cut.
JIM LEHRER: A tax rate kind of -- the kind the Republicans want, a tax rate tax cut.
PAUL GIGOT: That's right, and a pretty big one. So that suggests to me that there may be some momentum behind actually passing something this year.
JIM LEHRER: Before we go, Mark, this thing between President Clinton and Vice President Gore, somebody being upset, tension between them. What do you make of all of that?
MARK SHIELDS: I think it's real. I think that there's always a tension between a president and vice president. There was between Ike and Dick Nixon. There was between Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, and there was not an intense relationship certainly between Ronald Reagan and George Bush in 1988. And I -- I think what Al Gore is faced with is the Republicans have an enormous advantage over the Democrats on the issue of values and ethics and morality.
JIM LEHRER: So he's got -
MARK SHIELDS: He's got to distance himself there and I think at a personal level what really has hurt Bill Clinton was Al Gore's reference to Bill Clinton being a bad father. I mean, I think that's driving a stake in. While he knows it's true, it has to be personally painful and publicly painful.
PAUL GIGOT: That issue, moral values, is the number one issue among - by -- mentioned by one in four voters in the recent battleground survey. The number one issue and the Republicans have a 41-point advantage, 57 to 16. That's a residue - Celinda Lake - the Democratic pollster says -- of impeachment and that's the kind of hole that Al Gore has to climb out of.
JIM LEHRER: So whether Bill Clinton likes it or not, if Al Gore is going to win, he's got to do something. And we've got to go. Thank you both.