Today's Papers

Vote Early, Often, and at Gun Point

The Los Angeles Times leads with a report about how Hollywood is preparing for upcoming Senate hearings about its marketing practices (the New York Times runs the story inside). The Washington Post goes with presidential campaign analysis. The NYT leads with the news that 40 states will lose federal money earmarked for child health care because they failed to spend it in time. The government was scheduled to disburse $4.2 billion this year under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but only about half of it has been spent because most states got organized late and had trouble enrolling eligible kids. The leftover money will go to the nine states that spent all their CHIP money, and whatever remains unused after a year will revert to the Treasury.

Hollywood executives worked all week to make sure that the hearings about their marketing violence to teen-agers, set for next Wednesday, do not turn into the show trials that tobacco executives suffered through a few years ago. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain agreed to let second-tier executives testify and to forego a swearing-in spectacle. Although entertainment industry big wigs are privately furious about the FTC report that led to the hearings, they have decided not to contradict its findings and are prepared for the dressing down they are sure to receive. In hopes of blunting the criticism, eight studios agreed to a list of concessions, including explaining specifically how R-rated movies earned their rating and naming an executive to act as teen advertising czar.

The WP campaign piece reports that the Bush team has decided to pull most of its advertising in Illinois, once a battleground state where Gore now holds a double-digit lead. The tactical retreat shows that although Bush just had his best week on the trail since the convention, his advisers now recognize that they have to pick their battles. Some in the Bush camp are likewise complaining because the candidate is scheduled to spend several days in California, Oregon, and Washington, states that Gore has all but sewn up, while Florida and Ohio are still very much in play. Meanwhile, the Gore campaign has decided to start advertising in Nevada, a state that Clinton won twice but where Bush held a commanding lead until recently. Both Bush and Gore advisers acknowledge that although the race is extremely close, Gore holds a slight electoral advantage.

The LAT fronts and the NYT goes inside with analysis of the campaign in Florida, long thought key to a Bush victory because, along with Texas, it counterbalanced the Gore vote bloc from California and New York. Gore has pulled even, and the Florida Republican establishment is panicking. Bush has not received particularly enthusiastic support from his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, and he was slow to articulate his position on key senior citizen issues like Social Security and prescription drugs. Gore has done a much better job tailoring his message to Florida voters, and his selection of Joe Lieberman galvanized the large Jewish population in the state. Even if Bush manages a win in Florida, the unexpected Gore challenge could hurt him in the swing states like Ohio and Michigan where he might otherwise be spending resources. Florida Republicans also worry that a Bush loss would hurt their candidates for an open Senate seat and two tight congressional races.  

The NYT fronts news that Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio arrived at a tentative agreement to ban soft-money advertisements. Lazio has made soft money a key issue in the campaign, and he stands to gain the most from the ban because Clinton has raised substantially more soft money but has had trouble with hard money. For her part, Clinton succeeded in limiting the scope of the ban, which applies only to TV and radio advertisements and not the get-out-the-vote efforts and direct mailings Lazio originally proposed to forbid. Under the agreement, both candidates are required to ask independent groups not to run ads on their behalves, but the third parties can ignore them if they want to.

The LAT fronts and the NYT and WP stuff word of the elections in Yugoslavia today. Opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica leads Slobodan Milosevic in the polls, but Milosevic controls the election apparatus and refuses to allow independent observers to monitor the voting. Voters in Kosovo and Montenegro have promised not to show up at the polls, but Milosevic has a history of padding the results from low-turnout areas. Yesterday, he ordered party officials to inspect all ballots on the premise that Westerners are attempting to sabotage the election. Milosevic also dispatched troops to the pro-Western republic of Montenegro, ostensibly to guard the election, but the Clinton administration is worried he is really looking for a pretext to overthrow the government. Two U.S. Navy vessels have moved into the area.

All three papers front photographs of Marion Jones winning the 100 meters, the first of five medals she has set her sights on. Maurice Green won the men’s race but finished .08 seconds behind his world record time. The last year two Americans won the event was 1988 (Florence Griffith Joyner and Carl Lewis).