"It appears that Bush fatigue is setting in."
So soon? Believe it, says Mark Penn, campaign pollster for Vice President Gore.
A memo from Penn to Gore campaign chairman Tony Coelho was circulating on Capitol Hill last week. Penn's analysis of various polls reaches the sunny conclusion that Gore has seized the momentum against Texas Gov. George W. Bush and -- although 15 points behind -- is in a good position.
"Despite the saturation coverage that Bush received for his announcement" that he is running, "his movement has been blunted," Penn wrote, citing polls by CNN and the Wall Street Journal. A Gore victory "now will take only 7.5 [percent] of the voters to change their mind in the next year and a half."
Surrogates Singing the Gore Gospel
If you've noticed more smiling faces on television waxing poetic about the virtues of Vice President Gore, it's no coincidence.
Media consultant Kiki Moore and lawyer/lobbyist Jack Quinn are heading a team of Gore surrogates to fan out across the airwaves and spread the Gore gospel. Like the candidate himself, the surrogates got a prep session with speech doctor Michael Sheehan just before Gore's announcement tour. Several, speaking under the protection of anonymity, pointed out they weren't the ones who needed coaching.
Lined up so far are former White House spokeswoman Amy Weiss Tobe, Democratic pollster Peter Fenn and Gore loyalists Lorraine Voles and Roy Neel. Moore describes the effort as low-key and stresses that folks are free to say what they want about Gore; no talking points or scripting in this operation.
Nevertheless, the same turns of phrase popped up from more than one of them. For example, Quinn and Fenn were both talking last week about the importance of "keeping the campaign focused on the issues American people care about."
Cash-Strapped Hatch Gets Nod From Bennett
The guys from Utah are sticking together. Utah Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R) endorsed his fellow senator, Orrin G. Hatch, the latest entrant in the Republican presidential sweepstakes.
His statement was not exactly Milton extolling his friend Lycidas, however. Bennett began by allowing that "everyone recognizes that Governor Bush is favored to win the Republican nomination" and noted that he will also be helping Elizabeth Dole with her campaign for the GOP nomination.
Meanwhile, Hatch was appearing on "Larry King Live" and "Good Morning America." The senator cheerfully declared that he is "only $36 million down" in the fund-raising department; while Bush has tallied at least $36.25 million bank, Hatch has "received commitments worth several hundred thousand dollars," said fund-raiser Frank Suitter.
He's running on his experience -- "my 23-year record of bringing people together in the Senate to solve problems." By contrast, Hatch said on CNN, Bush has occupied a "constitutionally weak governorship. They can't even submit a budget, as I understand it."
"He is a very nice man; he has a lot going for him," Hatch added. "But there is more to this than just looking good and just being a good governor."
Alexander Pays Birthday Visit to Dixville Notch
Lamar Alexander spent his 59th birthday Thursday in tiny Dixville Notch, N.H. It is a requirement of the Political Journalists Union that Dixville Notch always be called "tiny." It is not so much a town as it is a hotel, The Balsams, whose year-round employees have their own town, post office and electoral precinct.
Dixville Notchians (Notchovars?) gather at midnight every four years to cast the earliest votes in the earliest primary of the presidential campaign. Although they are not particularly good at picking winners, they are extremely good at getting their votes recorded in the American media.
Wonder what Alexander's birthday wish was . . .
Staff writer Ceci Connolly contributed to this report.