Tags: 'Top | Gun' | Bush | Plotted | for | Senate | After

'Top Gun' Bush Plotted for Senate After Inauguration

Sunday, 10 November 2002 12:00 AM

In the winter of 2001, the GOP's Senatorial Campaign Committee quietly conducted polls in 10 states with upcoming Senate races - states deemed to possess a "geographical advantage" for the party, reports Chief Political Correspondent Howard Fineman.

These included "Red States" the president had won handily (among them North Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas)and those thought to be trending the GOP's way (including New Jersey and Minnesota).

More importantly, and more remarkably, the party secretly tested the "favorability" ratings of possible GOP contenders in those states. The idea, said Sen. Bill Frist, who heads the committee, was to be able to recruit "candidates with stature and experience."

In North Carolina, Frist began recruiting Elizabeth Dole (still living in Washington at the time) in the summer of 2001 - barely a year after she dropped her own challenge to Bush and long before the incumbent senator, Jesse Helms, announced his retirement, Newsweek reports.

The story of how George W. Bush rose from the Accidental President to Top Gun has its roots in this campaign that became an unprecedented mix of grassroots politics, congressional policymaking and global diplomacy, Fineman reports in the November 18 Newsweek cover story, "Top Gun: How Bush Beat the Odds."

By last August, Fineman reports, Bush & Co. essentially had their interlocking, three-part game plan in place: to raise the stakes and lengthen the debate on our dealings with Iraq, to press the Democrats to accept the White House version of a Department of Homeland Security (and hammer them if they opposed it) and to deploy both issues to burnish the president's popularity with the GOP faithful, to whom Bush would appeal in coast-to-coast campaigning in the final weeks of the 2002 campaign.

This fall, Bush adviser Karl Rove and his deputy Ken Mehlman put together a strenuous presidential travel schedule, though it was carefully tailored to minimize overnights on the road. "The president would have to bear the brunt if we lost, whatever he did or didn't do," Rove tells Newsweek.

"We decided that he ought to be engaged. At least that way he'd have a better chance to beat the history."

Three days after the election, the U.N. Security Council unanimously supported a sternly-worded resolution that gave Bush wide latitude to attack Saddam Hussein if the Iraqi dictator doesn't disarm by next February. "He had the equivalent of two presidencies in one week," crowed Chief of Staff AndyCard.

"On Tuesday, he showed he is leading the country," said another top administration aide. The U.N. vote "showed he is leading the world."

Also in the cover package, Senior Editor Jonathan Alter writes an open memo to the Democratic party offering them survival tips. First, he suggests, look in the mirror. "Finger-pointing and recriminations are actually healthy for you. And after the anger can come reflection and regeneration," he writes.

Secondly, stand for something. "You timidly downplayed bedrock Democratic economic values like corporate accountability, health insurance and help for the employed," he writes. Next, stay centrist. "If you hope to avoid being totally discredited by an anxious electorate, you must return to your pre-Vietnam roots as a party of muscular foreign-policy," Alter writes.

"Finally, become more disciplined and look to potential presidential candidates to advance new ideas."

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In the winter of 2001, the GOP's Senatorial Campaign Committee quietly conducted polls in 10 states with upcoming Senate races - states deemed to possess a geographical advantage for the party, reports Chief Political Correspondent Howard Fineman. These included Red...
'Top,Gun',Bush,Plotted,for,Senate,After,Inauguration
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2002-00-10
Sunday, 10 November 2002 12:00 AM
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