There was good news and bad news at Al Gore's headquarters last week. The bad news? Former New York City mayor Edward I. Koch (D) isn't backing the vice president.

The good news?

Koch isn't backing the vice president.

"If I had to vote tomorrow, I'd vote for [former New Jersey senator Bill] Bradley," Koch told the Associated Press in an interview last week. "My own belief is that [Gore] will not be elected." The problem, Koch believes: too much Clinton baggage.

Koch was one of Gore's strongest supporters for the White House in 1988. Now he's turning on him. On the other hand, Koch's abrasive style while campaigning for Gore was widely blamed for Gore's disastrous drubbing in the 1988 New York primary.

Early Primary Bandwagon

March 7, 2000, is going to be a busy, busy day. Two more states are leaning toward scheduling their presidential primaries that day, joining California, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia (unless the state moves it still earlier), Maryland and several other states.

Last week the Ohio Senate voted to move its primary up from March 21, while the Alabama Senate voted unanimously to move its primary up from June 6. The lower chambers in both states must approve the bills; both are considered likely to do so.

Faster, faster, earlier, earlier. The rush to move up next year's nominating contests only increases the likelihood that nominees will be chosen quicker than even before. The moves have alarmed some political observers who worry that the new compressed schedule favors big-money candidates and presents little opportunity for dark horses to emerge.

Megastate California, traditionally one of the last primaries, decided early this year to jump ahead, and that set off a sort of chain reaction among states worried that their primaries or caucuses would be rendered meaningless by the big kahuna.

In Ohio, the vote was largely along partisan lines, with Democrats opposed. They complained that late-winter weather might depress turnout. Republicans rejected that argument.

Rep. Hill's Personal Touch

In Montana, where politics is almost as important as opening day of elk season, it appears that the election is right around the corner rather than 17 months off.

Rep. Rick Hill (R), who hasn't even declared his intention to run for a third term as the state's lone House member, has gotten things off to a rousing start against the Democratic candidate, state school superintendent Nancy Keenan. In an interview with Roll Call last week, Hill pointed out that Keenan has never been married and has no children, and promised that their differences in "lifestyle" would be a focus of the campaign.

He's probably wishing he had tried another approach. He's been hammered by many of the state's major newspapers. "Hill's opening salvo sinks to bottom of the barrel," was the headline of a Billings Gazette editorial. The Great Falls Tribune weighed in a day later, accusing Hill of "smearing his likely opponent with irrelevant innuendo." And the Missoulian chastised him with a "Shame on you, Congressman Hill" editorial.

Most of the papers also reminded their readers that in his first race in 1996 -- when Democratic candidate Bill Yellowtail was criticized for hitting his ex-wife and being delinquent in paying child support -- it was reported that Hill had left his first wife for a cocktail waitress.

"The fact is," the Missoulian said on Wednesday, "Hill's personal life doesn't exactly bear close scrutiny, and the last thing he ought to be doing is suggesting that his lifestyle and life choices form the basis for his reelection. Trust us, Rick, you don't want to go down that road."

Staff writers Terry M. Neal and Tom Kenworthy contributed to this report.

CAPTION: Former New York mayor Edward I. Koch, a strong supporter of Al Gore in 1988, now says the vice president has too much Clinton baggage.