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The campaign had other gambits planned too, and the group went over them as seven television screens played silently in the background. The D.N.C.'s Laura Quinn explained how megamystery writer Stephen King had recorded radio spots in which he had intoned, "I know what you did in Texas." Actresses Neve Campbell and Kathy Bates were thinking about doing spots too. Klain asked about getting Jamie Lee Curtis signed up.
"We tried," said Quinn.
"Too bad," said Klain.
He turned to David Ginsberg, head of research: "David, the bad guys?"
Bush would be in New Mexico, Ginsberg said, on his way to California, which instantly became the big mystery in Goreland that day. Why was Bush going there when Florida was, in the words of spokesman Doug Hattaway, "the big kahuna, and we're ahead"?
The major question of the week was "What do we push on the negative track?" As Klain put it, How hard should questions be pressed about Bush's fitness for office? Who should ask them? (Gore, everyone agreed, couldn't.) Where to ask them? They had tested nine possible ads over the weekend. By Monday they were down to five. The spots ranged in tone from reassurances about Gore's leadership qualities to frontal attacks on Bush's competence. They would eventually choose the bluntest approach--a direct assault on the question of whether Bush was "ready to lead America."
Greenberg's polls showed the attack had promise. In a memo to the campaign high command, he wrote, "The balance of forces tilts toward us." But he had felt compelled to add, "imperceptibly so." Forty-four percent of voters thought Bush was "in over his head." But Greenberg admitted that Gore's negatives were higher. People thought he was arrogant and neither honest nor trustworthy. Still, he said, "arrogant is not a disqualifier."
DON'T STOP THINKING ABOUT TOMORROW
On his last stop of the last day before returning to Texas, Bush flew into Bentonville, in the northwest corner of Arkansas. Nearly 5,000 people--a huge number for that part of the state--were jammed into an airport hanger for the rally. The crowd roared as Bush and Laura emerged from their plane and waved. On the tarmac, the normally taciturn campaign chairman, Don Evans, was so juiced by the moment that he ran to the crowd, his arms raised high, both hands making the W sign and then proceeded to work the line, grabbing hands as if he were the candidate.
Ever since he got into the race 16 months before, Bush had always sworn he was not out for revenge. This wasn't about his father's loss in 1992, he claimed. It wasn't about his father at all; it was, he said, about the future. But no matter what Bush said, no matter how hard his aides argued the point, the motivating force behind the campaign was always apparent. Sure, Bush was his own man, not just the son out to avenge the father. But what really gave his campaign energy, what fueled the passion in the crowds that came out to see him, was the desire to expunge the memory of Bill Clinton's victory--a victory seen as illegitimate by hard-core Republicans--and of the eight years that followed.