Former senator Bill Bradley had no idea what a mistake he was making last March at a basketball tourney here when he gave Gov. Tom Vilsack's wife, Christie, a kiss on the cheek.

"He leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek. The vice president [Gore] had done the same thing the week before," recalled the governor, a Democrat.

"My wife began thinking to herself, 'You know, this is just like high school where you've got two guys who are interested in maybe asking you out for a date.' She said, 'I played that game in high school and it just drove me crazy. I don't want that, I don't want people courting me,' " the governor said.

"So," Vilsack said, "she made a decision."

Unfortunately for Bradley, Christie Vilsack decided to put her energies behind Gore, a significant political development in Iowa, where she is viewed as a powerhouse in her own right.

The governor, meanwhile, is maintaining a stance of neutrality in the Democratic battle--although the tone of his remarks suggests that he and his wife are not at odds over her decision.

Asked to predict the outcome here, Vilsack said, "If I were a betting man, it would be 60-40 Gore." Asked to evaluate the significance of such a margin, Vilsack said it would be "a solid victory for the vice president."

"We have a moral crisis that is claiming the lives of our children in the schools and in the streets," Alan Keyes likes to tell voters as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination.

Keyes, perhaps the most hard-line moralist of the GOP presidential contenders, has only to look across the street from his state headquarters here to find a target for his wrath.

Keyes has set up shop at the corner of Grand and 12th streets, one of the more desolate commercial sections of Des Moines. Appropriately for a candidate presenting himself as a national savior, a few doors east of the Keyes headquarters is the Door of Faith Mission. But on the other side of Grand, facing the Keyes headquarters, is the enemy: the New Blue Nude Adult Entertainment Center.

"We noticed that," said Chris Jones, national field director for the Keyes campaign. No effort has been made to convert the patrons of the New Blue Nude, Jones said: "We have no contact with them. We can't do a lot about our neighbors."

The manager of the New Blue Nude declined to voice any opinion about his neighbor on the other side of Grand or to give his own name, saying the owners allow him to discuss only what he sells: "Adult magazines and various novelties, basically marital aids, and gifts and gags."

The campaign of George W. Bush continues to push the envelope in its efforts to develop an innovative relationship with the news media. Officials have chartered a plane from a bankrupt Des Moines airline, AccessAir, to transport the press around the nation.

Eric Woolson, Bush's Iowa campaign spokesman, said he has full confidence that reporters will find the plane safe and secure, although when asked if he will fly on it too, he said, "Well, I don't have that much faith." But he quickly added that he was joking, saying he fully intends to ride the AccessAir charter.

One problem Woolson cited, however, is that another major client of the bankrupt firm is the U.S. Marshals Service, which transports prisoners and illegal immigrants. It may prove difficult, Woolson noted, to tell the difference between the passengers of the two planes, creating the possibility that the prisoners will follow Bush in his Gulfstream jet, while the reporters are shipped elsewhere.