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Jewish World Review Feb. 23, 2000 / 18 Adar I, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Will Ross Perot aid POW McCain? -- IN 1992, 104 million Americans voted in the presidential election. In 1996, the number dropped to 96 million.

The sad drop in turnout tracked a similar decline in votes for the Reform Party candidate. Twenty million people voted for party founder Ross Perot in '92. Just 8 million did so in '96.

Let's suppose that the reason for this lower vote last time was the lack of a provocative alternative to the two major parties. Perot, the new kid on the block eight years ago, had lost much of his pizzazz by the time of his second run .

The question for the election this year is how to attract the independent-minded, turned-off voter. What would bring out the Reagan Democrats, Reagan Republicans, libertarians and, in some cases, the just plain grouchy who took a good long look at Perot in 1992?

One sure way to depress the turnout would be to offer such voters the too-exciting-to-bear choice between the legacy twins, George W. Bush and Albert A. Gore. That would guarantee a national March-through-November snore-athon.

One way to inflate millennial year turnout would be the creation of a coalition between hopeful, reform-minded independents and a hopeful, reform-minded Republican presidential nominee.

A perfect candidate to head this fusion ticket would be John McCain, a man who has made campaign finance reform into a crusade. Unlike Bush, he preaches that the GOP's heartiest future lies in the activism, reform-mindedness and vision of Teddy Roosevelt. Also, he is not a Bush, a family that Reform Party founder Ross Perot, for some reason known best to him, despises.

A fusion ticket backed by Reformers as well as Republicans would present Perot with an added plus. It would keep his party's nomination free from the clutches of Patrick J. Buchanan, a man who last year wrote a book, "A Republic, Not an Empire," that condemns the Western democracies for standing up to Hitler in 1939.

The patriot Ross Perot did not create a political party to have it overrun by a political arch-conservative looking for a more receptive home.

How does Perot feel toward McCain, a man who has this year championed the Reform Party cause of campaign finance reform?

History offers an intriguing clue. Back in 1970, the Dallas multi-billionaire flew to Southeast Asia with hopes of getting food and medical supplies to American POWs like John McCain.

Thirty years later, a somewhat different Perot mission to help a former Vietnam POW may be at the strategy stage. Maybe this time, Perot will make it through with the supplies.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


02/18/00: McCain faces fury of GOP establishment
02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
02/07/00: A prime-time primary for California
02/02/00: Clinton's final campaign: Take the blame
01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
01/27/00: John McCain's gay radar
01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
01/18/00: AIDS dooms 1 in 4 in tiny Swaziland
01/13/00: Complacency might be the campaign key
01/10/00: A choice, not an echo
01/06/00: The role of a lifetime
01/03/00: Dangers in Gore's dirty war
12/30/99: Churchill's fighting words saved the century
12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
12/17/99: New Democratic leader on the horizon
12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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