(Waterloo, IA) George W. Bush, the front-runner in the Republican party’s presidential race, on Thursday said he had $30 million in the bank and will not be accepting taxpayer-financing for his campaign. Those taxdollar “matching funds” for presidential candidates come with strings: spending limits. Without directly mentioning him by name, Buch suggested those limits would damage his ability to compete against billionaire Steve Forbes in the Republican primaries.
Bush said with a big bankroll and no restrictions on spending, he alone will have the “staying power” Bob Dole lacked last time around. Dole accepted the federal money, abided by the spending limits and found himself unable to fully respond to a flurry of Forbes attack ads.
“I’m competing in the primary against somebody that can write one check and I’m mindful of what happened in 1996 and I’m not going to let it happen to me,” Buch said during a news conference.
Bush said during next year’s general election, he also needs to spend, toe-to-toe, with Vice President Al Gore, the likely Democrat presidential nominee.
“There’s a chance I’ll be running against somebody that can jump on a government airplane, running all over the country making promises. I want to be able to respond,” Bush said.
Bush said spending limits would put him “in a box.” “Early states like Iowa and New Hampshire have got limits that constrain candidates,” he said.
Bush is embarking on his second campaign swing through the corn-belt caucus state and he began his trip in Waterloo by calling for emergency assistance to farmers “at least” as large as last year’s disaster aid, which totaled about $6 billion.
“The President’s recently been on a poverty tour,” Bush said, referring to President Clinton’s recent effort to spur private investment in areas of the country, like East St. Louis, which have been
bypassed by economic boom times. “Perhaps (Clinton) ought to come to farm country. If he wants to find people that are hurtin,’ he needs to look right here.”
Bush said farmers selling livestock and crops at a price that’s below “break even” need an immediate “cash infusion” from the government.
“The farm economy is a very important part of the United States’ overall economic picture and like many here, I hope it improves over time,” Bush said.
Bush promised that, as president, he would resist including grain and meat in economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. on other countries. And Bush, whose father was once U.S. Ambassador to China, said the Clinton Administration “made a mistake” by not admitting China to the World Trade Organization.
“I think we ought to open China’s markets to Iowa producers, farm producers all across the United States,” Bush said.
Bush’s news conference was staged after an early morning campaign rally held in a park in downtown Waterloo.
About 200 people turned out, including “third generation Texan” George Winslow who lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa, during the summer and in Texas during the winter.
“He’s done a great job as Governor of Texas and I think he’ll do a great job as president,” said Winslow, who wore a cowboy hat to the outdoor event.
Shortly before Bush’s appearance, Al Cross of Elk Run Heights, Iowa, turned to the roped off media area and asked to see the “liberal media” who he believes are “out to trash Bush.”
“He’s from Texas and he’s going to be a straight-shooter,” Cross said. “That’s what I like about him.”
The “straight-shooter” Cross described wasted little of the crowd’s time, jumping off his campaign bus, striding through the crowd shaking hands and not waiting for the obligatory introductions from local officials. Bush was the first and only person to take the microphone at the rally, and he spoke only 13 minutes, touching on his themes of “compassionate conservatism” and “prosperity with purpose.” Later Thursday, Bush visited a diner in Webster City, Iowa and attended campaign events in Fort Dodge and Sioux City.