Bush takes a page from Clinton-Gore playbook
With the roller-coaster primary season firmly behind them, it seems the two all-but-anointed presidential candidates have planted themselves firmly in the middle, staking their campaigns on issues with broad centrist appeal -- improved educational performance for George W. Bush and campaign finance reform for Al Gore. So W., after spending months touting his conservative credentials to the GOP faithful, took a major step toward rebuilding his "compassionate" cred with potential crossover voters Tuesday by unleashing a $5 billion proposal to combat child illiteracy. The plan would provide grants for school districts to beef up their literacy efforts for kindergartners and first graders, including providing tutors.
The literacy initiative, which targets a traditionally Democratic issue -- federal investment in education -- demonstrates that the GOP has woken up to the importance of the crossover vote. In 1992 and '96 Democrats captured and kept the White House by touting such traditionally Republican issues as debt reduction, slashing government bureaucracy and reducing welfare rolls. While Bush's plan still pales in comparison to Gore's proposed $115 billion investment in public education over 10 years (a point the veep will surely attack him on), it's still distinctively more big-government than any education proposal the Texas governor has offered up in the past.
And Bush took an even bolder step toward shoring up his centrist credibility Tuesday by wooing that new beacon of centrism -- John McCain. Like Don Corleone attempting to unite the major crime families after Sonny's death, Bush personally placed a call to McCain Tuesday and asked for a meeting. Earlier in the day he secured the endorsement of publisher Steve Forbes, a move that will do much to make amends with the GOP's right wing. With nearly four months to go until his party's convention, Bush looks poised once again to regain some of the inevitability that caused donors last year to endorse his candidacy with record amounts of money.
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