Line of Defense

With four days to go, George W.

With four days to go, George W. Bush was closing in on the biggest race of his life. Every credible poll showed him leading Al Gore by narrow margins. And recent presidential contests have shown that the candidate with the lead heading into the final weekend usually expands those numbers by Election Day. Then came the infamous Bush DUI story—the campaign was left scrambling. What did it mean? How should the campaign respond? Could it cost him the election? We soon found out that it did play a role in the overall popular vote, particularly in pivotal states like Florida and New Mexico, which hung in the balance for weeks. In the end, George Bush won Florida by just 537 votes out of 5,825,043 votes cast. And Al Gore won New Mexico by 366 votes out of 615,607 cast. We all know the result of the ensuing legal saga, but for today’s campaigns, a key question lingers: Can you avoid being sunk by a last-minute gaffe, scandal or bad press cycle? The answer is yes, as long as you recognize the increasing importance of early voting.READ MORE in the May issue.

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