Bush got Gov. Schaefer when he needed Reagan


November 01, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

ST. LOUIS -- Here's the situation:

You're the president of the United States and you're in the fight of your life.

You have only a few precious days left to close the gap between you and your Democratic rival.

Every second counts. This is no time for halfway measures. You must bring out your heavy artillery.

You must fly William Donald Schaefer to Missouri.

Wait, wait, it only looks dumb on paper. Think it through the way Jim Baker, the president's de facto campaign manager, did:

Don Schaefer is so unpopular in Maryland that his endorsement of George Bush could not make much difference there.

But maybe if you got Schaefer far enough away from Maryland to where people think he is popular, then the endorsement of a Republican president by a Democratic governor might mean something.

And how far away do you have to fly him? Well, at least across the Mississippi.

So Don Schaefer found himself whisked to the parking lot of an office complex outside St. Louis on Friday to tell a crowd exactly why he was backing George Bush.

"He's muh friend! He's muh friend! He's muh friend!" Schaefer bellowed into the microphone.

The audience paused for a second and then burst into wild applause.

Schaefer did not go on to explain the source of this friendship: The visits by Schaefer and Hilda Mae Snoops to Camp David, the phone calls that White House officials always took from Schaefer asking that federal red tape be cut to help Maryland, and the fact that Bill Clinton is a good friend of Kurt Schmoke.

That last one is not to be overlooked: If you are the friend of Don Schaefer's enemy, you are his enemy, too.

"A lady backstage said: 'Who are you?' " Schaefer told the crowd. "I felt like I was in Maryland!"

Then Schaefer said that Bush is "a good man and an honest guy" who would improve the economy for the entire country, "including this state right here, the state of Maryland."

The people in the crowd immediately yelled out: "Missouri!"

But Schaefer handled the complainers here exactly the way he )) does at home: He ignored them.

And at the end of his speech he said: "Thank you, Marylanders!"

Bush then took the stage and praised Schaefer for his "guts."

It is considered very important who a candidate surrounds himself with. Each person is a symbol.

Schaefer was the symbol of a Democrat rising above party considerations to endorse a Republican.

The day before, Bush chose another symbol to stand next to: Jerry Ford.

And Jerry Ford is the symbol of . . . well, that's the problem.

Bush really would like to be standing next to Ronald Reagan in the final days of his campaign.

But while Reagan is campaigning for Bush, he is not campaigning with Bush.

"By having them separate, we can cover twice the ground," said Torie Clarke, Bush's spokeswoman.

Maybe. Or maybe Reagan just doesn't want to get that close to a man who might go down in defeat.

So when Bush came to Michigan to woo Reagan Democrats he could not offer them Reagan.

And he had to make do with home boy Gerald Ford.

And so there was George Bush up on the podium standing next to Gerald Ford, the last Republican president who was voted out of office.

Talk about symbolism.

L Why doesn't Bush stop next at the Herbert Hoover birthplace?

Republican Herbert Hoover was elected president in 1928, the American economy collapsed and his popularity ratings were awful.

But he battled hard, pulled out all the stops in the final weeks of his campaign and you know what happened on election day? He lost.

OK. Bad example.

Better to stick with Gerald Ford. And Ford attempted to show how his own campaign for re-election had similarities to the Bush campaign and how polls could be wrong and how nobody should count Bush out.

"Sixteen years ago, I had a contest with a Southern governor who went around the country promising change!" Ford said.

And you know what happened?

The Southern governor won.

OK, bad example.

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