Presidential candidates have always had a lot to worry about: Will
enough money come in to keep the campaign afloat? Will the press
discover something embarrassing or even politically fatal? Will
anybody actually vote for me?
Now, for the top candidates, there's a new concern: the potential
for "front-runner fatigue."
Campaign 2000 has started earlier than any presidential race in
history, and the proliferation of 24-hour news operations such as
MSNBC, Fox, and the now-venerable CNN means that leading candidates
run the risk of overexposure. The pace of a campaign, always
important, has never been more crucial.
Some of the allure of Texas Gov. George W. Bush - who maintains a
steady double-digit lead in polls over likely Democratic nominee,
Vice President Gore - is that he's new on the national political
scene. And even as the press and rival candidates clamor for Bush to
reveal ever-more detail about his policies and plans for the country,
his campaign knows he must exercise restraint.
"We've reached the point where a good bit of Al Gore's problem is
that he's been around too long," says pollster John Zogby. "I wonder
at what point folks will say, 'George W.? Oh yeah, he was last
year's front-runner. Who do you have for me this year?' That's a
whole new element this year."
Despite Bush's solid poll numbers, there's anecdotal evidence that
some voters are already getting tired of Mr. Inevitable. One Bush
contributor in Massachusetts says he gave to Bush because a friend
asked him to, but now he's interested in another candidate, Sen. John
McCain (R) of Arizona, and now plans to send him a check.
Growing scrutiny of Bush
Bush has caught some heat for taking his annual vacation in Maine
just a couple of weeks before the Iowa GOP straw poll Aug. 14, which
will be an important event for the Republican field. Bush's campaign
has countered these complaints with a plug for family values - that
it's a vacation he takes every year with his family and that, when he
decided to run for president, he promised his family they'd still go.
Still, Bush hasn't ensconced himself completely in Kennebunkport
these past two weeks, lest he fall completely off the voters' radar
screen. He took a day off to campaign in New Hampshire and then
another two days in Iowa.
Though Bush is the GOP front-runner, his campaign knows he can't
appear to take anything for granted - and that this early support
isn't locked in granite. …