Campaign Countdown 2000
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August 9, 1999

"Harvest of heartache in the heartland."

(Des Moines, IA) Citing a "harvest of heartache in the Heartland," Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan on Monday laid out a series of proposals he called a "Bill of Rights" to protect family farms.

"I think the crisis here is going to endure unless we change our policies and every family farm in America, I believe, is genuinely threatened," Buchanan said as he opened a 20-minute policy address before an audience of insurance executives in Des Moines.

Buchanan suggested a series of reforms, including some he's sought for years.

*Trade reform: abolition of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the International Monetary Fund; a review of all U.S. food embargoes; a shutdown of competing imports whenever prices for a farm commodity slip below the cost of production.

*Tax reform: elimination of the inheritance and capital gains taxes on family farm transfers.

*Regulatory reform: require price disclosure on livestock contracts; enforce anti-trust laws to prevent mega-mergers which threaten to monopolize the agriculture industry; exempt family farms from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; rewrite the Endangered Species Act; end government seizure of farmland without just compensation.

Buchanan also expressed support for the tax benefits now given to the ethanol industry. Ethanol is a fuel additive, which is corn-based.

Buchanan said the "specter of depression haunts the farmlands of America." Prices for agricultural commodities like corn, soybeans and pork have all reached historic lows, with a bumper crop this fall, which will further depress prices. Iowa State University economists predict half of Iowa hog farmers are in weak to vulnerable financial positions, which could soon bring about foreclosure.

"Washington and Wall Street may believe it is inevitable that the family farm, too, shall pass away. But as a conservative, I believe that family farms and rural towns must be conserved," Buchanan said.

Buchanan, sounding populist themes, decried the consolidation, which now sees five corporations controlling 89 percent of all U.S. beef processing.

"Say it ain't so. Farms turned into factories, controlled by far-away investors, with farmers as assembly-line workers," he said. "Is this what the first American farmers envisioned?"

The other Republican contestants for the GOP's presidential nomination are addressing the farm crisis, too, as they campaign in Iowa, a farm state which hosts an important test of campaign organizational strength this Saturday. The Iowa Republican Party's Straw Poll is a fundraiser for the party. Each "ballot" costs $25.

August 7, 1999

Buchanan, Quayle drop out of Republican Leadership Conference

(Omaha, Nebraska) Four Republican presidential candidates gathered Saturday to talk with more than 850 Midwest Republicans attending a Leadership Conference in Omaha.

But during news conferences with reporters, all four -- Lamar Alexander, Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes -- talked about the front-runner in the race, George W. Bush, criticizing him for declining yet another invitation to appear at a party function and share his views on issues.

Keyes said Bush was showing "the utmost contempt" for voters.

"This is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people. There are some folks now who think they are going to turn it into an oligarchy in which our decisions are made by money, dictated by power," Keyes told reporters.

Keyes said Bush's early campaign success is a symptom of the "crisis" in the country.

"A crisis of arrogance, a crisis of those who believe that they are going to usurp the votes of our people...and in that arrogance now they spit in the face of ordinary voters, believe that having been crowned by whatever moneybags there are in America, they can turn their backs on the electoral process. I think that's a real danger to our republic," Keyes said.

Bauer said he hoped rank-and-file Republicans were becoming disenchanted with Bush's reluctance to debate the issues with his Republican opponents.

"If those of us that are vying for the Republican presidential nomination are hesitant to confront each other about the direction of the party, then how in the world do we beat Al Gore?" Bauer said. "Our frontrunner has views on issues that are quite different from where the party has gone in the past. We need to debate about those things and I would encourage him, however much he likes Austin, Texas, to come to events like this and give Republican voters, Republican leaders a chance to take the measure of him, not just how well he flips a pancake or whatever but what he actually thinks about some of the great issues facing the country."

Another candidate, Lamar Alexander, proposed a "12th commandment" for the remainder of the republican presidential race.

"When picking a President, thou shalt have a contest and the contest shall be on the issues," Alexander said. "Too many observers, those in the media and those with big money, have said that the Republican race is over, principally because one of the (candidates) has raised a pile of money."

Alexander said without a feisty primary contest, the Republican party was in danger of nominating a candidate who was not prepared for a general election contest against Vice President Al Gore, the front-runner for the Democrat Party's presidential nomination.

"Then we get 16 years of Clinton/Gore and maybe eight of Hillary after that," Alexander said.

Magazine publisher Steve Forbes suggested Bush is not ready to be challenged by a debate over issues with the other candidates.

"Ultimately you win, not by being anointed by the elites in Washington and the lobbyists...the way you do it is by taking your message to the people," Forbes said.

However, Ohio Congressman John Kasich, who just one month ago was a candidate for the presidency himself, said the "stars are aligned" to nominate Bush. Kasich said many G.O.P. leaders hope to avoid a messy primary in order to win the White House.

"This is a chance to get the Clinton/Gore team and erase it," Kasich told reporters during a Saturday morning news conference in Omaha.

Kasich dismissed the comments of Bush's competitors, saying it just isn't their time."

"It's like criticizing Mark McGwire today, you know, Bush's campaign is going terrific," Kasich said. "Somebody was telling me in New Hampshire this morning that (Bush) goes up there in his blazer and they rip the buttons off of his coat."

Organizers of the Omaha conference issued invitations to all the candidates, including Bush, but found themselves with a line-up of six on Friday night. That dwindled to four by Saturday morning.

"I guess we should still feel lucky that we have four of the bunch," said Bev Smith, executive director of the Nebraska G.O.P.

Dan Quayle dropped out at the last moment due to a family emergency, according to Smith, and Pat Buchanan decided to walk a parade route in a small, central Iowa town instead.

"It's a little disappointed because (Buchanan) had confirmed three months ago," Smith said.

Elizabeth Dole, John McCain and Orrin Hatch also declined the invitation to appear at the G.O.P. event.

August 7, 1999

Iowa Straw Poll should go

(Omaha, Nebraska) U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, a former candidate for the Republican party's presidential nomination, on Saturday said the Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll ought to go.

The event, scheduled for August 14, has forced the candidates who remain in the race to focus their time and resources on getting supporters to Ames, Iowa, to cast a Straw Poll ballot. The outcome of the contest may winnow some White House aspirants from the field if, as expected, Texas Governor George W. Bush wins handily.

Kasich, who dropped out of the race last month, had planned to spend $500,000 on his own effort to get supporters to the Straw Poll.

"I think the Straw Poll endangers the whole value of the system in Iowa...the beauty of Iowa is it's not about money in Iowa. The beauty of Iowa is you go into people's homes and you spend a year or two out there campaigning door to door and you can break out," Kasich said.

Arizona Senator John McCain, a G.O.P. presidential candidate, has refused to participate in the Straw Poll and does not have a campaign operation in Iowa. The state since the 1970s has hosted the first crucial test in the presidential campaign, precinct caucuses which draw republican activists out to neighborhood meetings on a February evening to cast private votes for their preference in the presidential race before turning to a discussion of issues which later percolate up into the party's platform.

Kasich argues the Straw Poll, held in August as a party fundraiser, "short circuits" candidates and reduces the importance of Iowa as a campaign ground for the candidates.

"They ought to get rid of that Straw Poll and let the (Iowa) Caucuses be the most important determinant because it's the most beautiful process," Kasich said.

Kasich, who made his comments during a meeting with reporters at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference, also unleashed criticism of U.S. Senate Democrat Leader Tom Daschle who last week suggested the media was giving Republican front-runner George W. Bush a free ride and should press him to dispel or confirm rumors of cocaine use.

Kasich called Daschle's remarks "absolutely outrageous."

"I think it's time in this country to restore a little bit of civility to the political process...Can we take a break here?" Kasich said.

Kasich said it was time for candidates, the public and the media to decide upon a "zone of privacy" on certain subjects.

August 7, 1999

Armey predicts Clinton to cave to public opinion

(Omaha, NE) U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey on Saturday predicted President Clinton will break his vow to veto the Republican-crafted $800 billion tax reduction package.

Armey and other republicans in Congress say they plan to barnstorm the country this month, explaining the details of the tax cuts in hopes to building interest and approval for the bill.

"As their enthusiasm for this relief grows, the President's pollsters will begin to report this polling data to the President," Armey told reporters at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference in Omaha, Nebraska.

"The President of the United States will simply not disappoint his pollsters...when the pollsters come in and say 'Mr. President, America has a new view on politics,' he'll wake up that morning and say 'Well, I'm a new man on taxes.'"

Armey said Clinton had done a similar about-face on welfare reform, embracing it after initial reluctance.

However, Armey said republicans would "be prepared to reconstruct a tax package" should Clinton veto the bill.

"If the President vetoes the tax package that is before him, that does not mean we are not willing to go right back to work. We are committed to this. We have a $3 trillion surplus," Armey said.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, also appearing at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference, said the G.O.P. was ready to "stand firm" for tax reduction against the threatened veto.

"If we don't have a tax cut, we'll spend the money," Kasich said.

Kasich, who referred to the tax reduction package as a "Republican crown jewel," accused Clinton of seeking more federal spending instead, which Kasich said was "not an acceptable conclusion."

August 3, 1999

Bauer finds meatloaf a bargain, but can he find supporters?

(Indianola, Iowa) The Tuesday luncheon special at the Crouse Cafe is the meatloaf dinner. It's $4.95.

"You can't get a salad for $4.95 in Washington," an incredulous Gary Bauer remarked to the reporters gathering to interview him in the back of the small cafe, near the tables laid out with white place mats, a glass of ice water and silverware wrapped in napkins.

"I got the license plate of that truck that ran over you," Bauer shouts to a woman trying to sit at a nearby table.

"Matt just ran over that lady back there," Bauer said to an aide, smiling and joking. "You're supposed to be nice to these guys."

Bauer, a candidate for the Republican party's presidential nomination, is traveling Iowa by bus and car this week, campaigning in coffee shops, churches and other venues to build support for the Iowa Republican Party's Straw Poll, to be held August 14. It will be an early test in the campaign and may weed out candidates who fail to win, place or show.

"You've got 11 days between now and the Straw Poll," a television reporter tells Bauer in the opening question of the news conference. "What are you doing between now and then to drum up support?"

"Um, eating meatloaf all over Iowa, I guess," Bauer replies. "I'm just going to as many places as I can around the state, trying to raise issues. I think, really, from my standpoint, the biggest frustration of the campaign so far has been that it's been one article after another, one news report after another, about how much money one candidate has raised and how much money at Ames, in these weeks leading up to Ames, we have a chance to make this an another candidate has inherited, and I think election about the American people."

As Bauer prepared to sit down for lunch, Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes was finishing lunch in his van as he arrived just a few blocks away at Indianola's Public Library for a meeting with two dozen supporters.

"I think we have been finding a lot of good, enthusiastic response among folks around the state to my basic message that the issues of moral priority, the ones that affect the moral character and address the moral decline of the country ought to be our top priority," Keyes told reporters standing under a shade tree outside the library.

In 1996, Keyes attracted about 800 supporters to the Iowa Republican Party's Straw Poll. This year, he predicts he'll attract more.

"The first rally as I recall that we had in Des Moines or one of these places had 800 people turn out, and we've had 45 of the rallies since then, so I think we've seen a lot more people than that," Keyes said, laughing.

Keyes has scheduled 33 town meetings in Iowa in the two weeks prior to the Straw Poll.

"The people who turn out for the work that I'm doing are people who really care. They're in it for nothing except that they care about this country. They expect nothing. It's no kind of interest issue where they're going to get something for their pocketbooks or anything. They're just people who grieve because this country seems to be headed

down the wrong road in terms of its moral values," Keyes said.

Keyes, an ardent advocate for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, is widely considered the best orator in the field of candidates.

But oratory skills won't carry the day on August 14, according to another contestant in the race, Elizabeth Dole. Dole on Tuesday said the speeches the candidates will "not make a lot of difference in terms of the votes. Most of the people are going to arrive with their minds made up."

Dole arrived mid-day Tuesday in a busy cafeteria in Des Moines' second-tallest building to shake hands and speak to the noontime crowd. She told reporters the media has hyped the importance of next week's Straw Poll.

"We're going to do well, but it's not a 'do or die' for me," Dole said.

Other candidates in the race, Lamar Alexander and Steve Forbes, have unleashed television ads in advance of the Straw Poll. Dole has no plans to introduce herself to Iowans through 30-second ads this early in the campaign.

"We're just working, meeting with people, going to town halls one after another...listening to people, their concerns, so I can be responsive and just having an opportunity really to relate one-on-one which I think people in Iowa expect and deserve and ads don't do that. You've got to do the retail politicking, too, or the caucuses won't be the same after this," Dole said.

A half-dozen Republican candidates were on the Iowa campaign trail on Tuesday including Forbes, Pat Buchanan and Orrin Hatch. On Wednesday, Bush is expected to visit Iowa as well.

August 2, 1999

Plenty of campaigning to prep for Straw Poll

(Des Moines, IA) Republican presidential hopeful Elizabeth Dole shook the hand of the Loop-O-Plane operator, then climbed aboard the ride with a supporter and his son.

"I'm 79. I couldn't go there, " said Dominic Rizzuti, the father and grandfather of Dole's fellow riders. "I'd be dead if I'd went in there."

"There" was the ride which flung Dole upside down several times before she stepped off, smiling to the photographers and camera operators who were putting the campaign moment on film.

Dole stayed at the Festa Italiana for nearly an hour Sunday afternoon, declining the invitation to play bocce ball but shaking hands and eating a pasta dinner instead.

"We wanted to get her on the south side of Des Moines, which is so truly democratic in tradition," said Cathie Fegley of Des Moines, co-chair of Dole's campaign effort in Polk County, Iowa's largest population center and home to Des Moines.

Fegley, who blushed and laughed when asked her party registration (finally conceding she'll register Republican to vote for Dole), said the campaign was "converting over" a lot of non-traditional voters.

One of those was Dominic Rizzuti, who immigrated to Des Moines from Italy over six decades ago. He and his wife, Kay, can count the number of times they've voted Republican on one hand.

"I think she'd make a good president," Kay said as she and her husband escorted Dole through the festival's tents and rides, even interrupting the bocce ball judges for personal introductions..

Republican candidate Pat Buchanan introduced himself to about 800 Christians during Sunday morning services at the First Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines.

After 35 minutes of singing and communion, Buchanan was invited to the pulpit. Buchanan told the congregation he first became involved in politics to fight the "Evil Empire" of communism. Buchanan said his new fight is against America's "moral crisis" which has made abortion, pornography and gambling "growth industries."

"The great struggle of our time is between those Americans who believe that God is king and we have to order our lives and order our society according to his will and those who believe that God is dead," Buchanan said.

Buchanan did not mention his opponents, nor did he solicit campaign supporters. After his remarks, the church's pastor invited Buchanan's wife to the altar, where church leaders stood around the candidate and his wife as prayers were said on Buchanan's behalf.

Buchanan stayed for the remainder of the hour-and-a-half long service, then shook hands and visited with churchgoers afterwards. He declined press interviews.

Republican presidential hopeful Steve Forbes flew from eastern to central Iowa on Saturday afternoon to be interviewed on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press." Forbes denied his campaign tried to hire temporary workers to vote in the upcoming Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll on August 14. The now-fired leader of the Iowa Christian Coalition made the charge, then retracted it last week. Bobbie Gobel and her entire Iowa staff were fired by national Christian Coalition leaders.

"Our campaign is above board," Forbes said when questioned about the hullabaloo.

The most recent candidate to enter the fray, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, called on his competitors for the Republican Party's presidential nomination to sign an affidavit, pleading they won't pay people to vote in the upcoming Straw Poll.

"The rumors are that George Bush is going to spend somewhere near $4 million in this election," Hatch, an attorney, told reporters. "I don't know how he can do it without buying votes."

Bush's Iowa campaign spokesman, Eric Woolson, called Hatch's accusation "ridiculous."

"People shouldn't put much stock in rumors," Woolson said.

Hatch, Forbes, Buchanan and Dole this week continue to travel around Iowa to build support for the upcoming Straw Poll. Candidates Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, George Bush and Dan Quayle have scheduled appearances in the state as well.

July 29, 1999

Mrs. Bush: 21 years of marriage filled with "fun & frustrations"

(Ames, IA) The First Lady of Texas entered the banquet room and walked to the first table, grabbing the back of the chair and announcing, "I'm Laura Bush."

After signing an autograph on a baseball and posing for pictures with a supporter's grandchild, she moved to the next table, announcing herself to the eight people who were in the midst of a deli sandwich lunch.

"I just think she's a special lady and I hope that she and her husband are successful in their bid for the White House," said Susan Bokhoven of Ames, who posed for a picture with Mrs. Bush.

"She's a very lovely lady," said Merle Garman of rural Ames, who sat next to Mrs. Bush, who did not eat. "She'd make a great first lady...but in the Garman household we haven't picked a horse yet" among the candidates seeking the G.O.P. presidential nomination.

Mrs. Bush delivered a nearly 10 minute speech to the gathering of about 85 Iowans.

"This is my first solo trip on George's presidential campaign," Mrs. Bush said. "I'm glad that the first trip is to Ames, Iowa. In fact, I hear there's a fairly important event on the horizon here, something about a straw poll."

The Bush campaign placed a postcard at each place setting, touting the line-up of entertainment which Bush will bring to his party in Ames, before the straw poll speechmaking and voting on August 14.

Sports stars like former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Nick Lowery and, health permitting, Sean Elliott of the San Antonio Spurs will attend. Country musicians Tracy Byrd and Linda Davis will give concerts. There will be barbecue to eat and a $25 ticket to the straw poll -- all free, courtesy of the well-financed Bush campaign.

In her carefully scripted remarks in Ames on Thursday, Mrs. Bush said she knew nothing about politics before marrying George W. Bush.

"I think America is ready for a new kind of leader, someone who has an optimistic message for our country, who's positive, hopeful and inclusive. Someone who united people instead of dividing them," Mrs. Bush said.

She briefly mentioned her mother-in-law, the popular ex-First Lady Barbara Bush, and her daughters, 17-year-old twins Barbara and Jenna, who are named after their grandmothers.

"According to my children, life with their dad is like being a private under the direct command of a general and according to my husband, war is hell," she said, laughing.

The Texas native made one, brief mention of her marriage to the man who is the son of a former president and the front-runner for the Republican party's next presidential nomination.

"Like every other family, my husband and I have had our share of fun and frustrations in 21 years of marriage. Overall, though, I think we're pretty pleased with our success. We've managed to raise two smart daughters and a half a dozen of their animals...I consider myself blessed to be his partner in life," Mrs. Bush said.

Mrs. Bush holds a masters in library science and was a librarian and elementary school teacher for 10 years. She is the founder of the Texas Book Festival, which celebrates Texas authors and raises money for libraries. After her appearance in Ames, she traveled to Des Moines to read to second graders at an inner-city school. Her selection: "Officer Buckle and Gloria," a book about safety.

On Thursday evening, Mrs. Bush was the keynote speaker at the Iowa Federation of Republican Women's 60th anniversary dinner. On Friday morning, she plans to eat breakfast with volunteers at the Bush campaign headquarters in Clive, Iowa.

Mrs. Bush joins the band of women and the man who are campaigning on behalf of their spouses in Iowa. Bob Dole, Honey Alexander, Marilyn Quayle, Ernestine Bradley and Tipper Gore have all made individual campaign appearances this year on their candidate-spouses' behalf.

July 28, 1999

Bradley opens headquarters, new phase of campaign

(Des Moines, IA) Former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley on Wednesday opened what he termed a new phase in his campaign to wrest the democrat party's presidential nomination from Vice President Al Gore.

Bradley said he's entering the "comparative" phase in which he'll stake out positions on specific issues to show his differences with Gore.

"I think that this latest foray last week is an example of me laying out a bold position and the Vice President really not saying anything on it, and then his campaign attacking me for wanting to change the status quo," Bradley told reporters during a news conference.

Bradley last week unveiled his campaign finance reform proposals, most notably a call for an end to "soft money" contributions made to political parties. Candidates may accept individual contributions of no more than $1000, but the parties can receive unlimited checks from individuals and corporations.

"I was a little astonished at the viciousness of the (Gore campaign's) response, but maybe that touched a nerve," Bradley said.

Bradley, a former star in the National Basketball Association, said he is executing a campaign game plan developed in January.

"We know exactly what we're doing," Bradley said. "If our strategic plan is right, we win and right now we're on target to move in that direction."

Bradley and his wife were in Iowa Wednesday to attend the opening of Bradley's campaign headquarters in Des Moines. Over 50 people turned out for the mid-day event. A cake and candles were brought in, which Bradley blew out in celebration of his birthday.

In the news conference with reporters after the ceremony, Bradley described his race with Gore as "competitive" and said there's nothing wrong with a little dust-up between the two democrat rivals during the primary season.

"Competition's what America's all about," Bradley said. "Great companies don't get to become great companies if they have a monopoly. If they're in a competitive situation, they're forced to become better and better...I don't see why politics can't be the same."

July 27, 1999

Bauer promises vouchers for homeschoolers

(Des Moines, IA) Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer on Tuesday said parents who "home-school" their kids should get tax credits as well as "voucher" payments others may receive for sending their kids to another public or private school.

The "voucher" -- labeled "school choice" by some -- would give parents a payment to cover the costs of educating their child in a school outside the district in which they live.

Bauer staged a news conference Tuesday to discuss the issue and his staff invited several dozen "homeschoolers" to the event.

"I often hear a lot of folks in Washington saying that the secret to education is a small classroom. Well, you all have the ultimate small classroom. You're able to give your children one-on-one attention," Bauer told the group.

Bauer, an undersecretary of education during the Reagan Administration, proposed school vouchers with "no strings attached" but later outlined some limitations.

"My voucher proposal could be spent by a homeschooling parent for either curriculum materials, tutoring help in an area where the parent might not feel up to the level they need to be in order to education their child," he said. "This is a legitimate choice. More and more parents are picking it and I want to make sure the playing field is level."

July 26, 1999

Hatch warns Bush will be "Quayle-ized"

(Des Moines, IA) Republican presidential candidate Orrin Hatch on Monday said his 23 years as a United States Senator better prepares him for the unavoidable campaign gaffes which Hatch predicted will cripple frontrunner George W. Bush.

"Anybody's going to make mistakes....but I have a feeling that if Bush makes mistakes, he'll be Quayle-ized," Hatch said, referring to the former Vice President. "You know, what they did to Dan Quayle is not fair. Look, Dan Quayle never said he fathered the Internet. Al Gore has been criticized for that, but nothing like Dan Quayle and I believe that George W. Bush will suffer the same fate in the end."

Hatch, a republican from Utah, made his comments to reporters after a tour of a Des Moines-based dairy. Hatch donned a hairnet and a baseball cap to walk through the highly-mechanized production area, where he shook a few workers' hands. Hatch then handed his hairnet and

cap to an aide and walked across a parking lot to the Anderson-Ericksen Dairy executive offices to meet with about 50 employees.

Standing in front of a glass display of milk and ice cream cartons, Hatch answered questions about a nationwide dairy compact, defense spending and tax policy. At one side of the conference room, which was decorated with "Diamond Udder" and "Golden Udder" awards for the dairy, ice cream samples were handed out to a few willing workers and to Hatch, who asked for vanilla.

Hatch handed his half-eaten bowl of ice cream to an aide, then turned to the group of reporters who trailed him. The interview ended with a question about today's Salt Lake City Tribune poll which shows Hatch trailing Bush even in Utah by a significant margin.

Hatch discounted the poll and cited another Utah paper's poll which showed him leading Bush in Utah.

"I think you'll find that if Bush and I went head to head in Utah, I'd kick his tail," Hatch told the reporters.

July 25, 1999

Hatch makes first trip to Iowa

(West Des Moines, IA) The latest Republican to launch a presidential campaign is making his first trip to Iowa, the site of an early test in the campaign, admitting he's behind but expecting "a miracle."

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch met privately with potential supporters on Sunday before attending a picnic in an exclusive, gated Des Moines suburb known as Glen Oaks on Sunday evening.

"I have to say that somebody said 'Aren't you just a day late and a dollar short getting into this race on July 1st?' I said, 'No, I'm two years late and 36 million dollars short," Hatch said, referring to frontrunner George W. Bush's campaign coffers.

Hatch told the crowd of 100 that "money doesn't buy elections. Ideas win elections."

Hatch said he'd been encouraged to seek the presidency many times, but had always resisted after being told candidates had to "sell their soul" to run for president.

"And I thought to myself I couldn't do that, but I'll tell you one thing I can do. I can run as the people's candidate. Basically, what I'm asking all over this country is for people to send $36 plus and if I get a million of 'em I'll get two or three million more and I'll tell you something, I won't be beholden to any special interest group. I'll be beholden to the people of this country," Hatch said.

Hatch has been a United States Senator for the past 23 years, and in his remarks focused on action pending in the Senate as well as his ideas on tax reform, defense, education, crime fighting and nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hatch enters the race weeks before a crucial early test, a strawpoll to be staged in Ames by the Iowa Republican Party. Bush is expected to win the contest, but Hatch urged his Sunday night audience to attend, promising performances by the Osmond Brother, Vic Damone and Roger Miller.

"You know, all we have to do is meet the rather low expectations of us. When I filed, those who don't know me thought that was crazy at the last minute. They said it would take a miracle to elect Orrin Hatch President. Well, I want you to know my life has been a life of miracles," Hatch said.

Hatch described his childhood as a life of poverty. His parents lost the family home in Pittsburg shortly after his birth, then moved to a wooded area in the city.

"My dad borrowed 50 bucks to buy an acre of ground which he paid off a dollar a the hills of Pittsburg in the wooded section, he built our home there out of a torn down, burned out building," Hatch said. "We didn't have indoor facilities. I know what it's like to be hungry."

Hatch, who once worked as a janitor and as a construction tradesman, said he raised chickens as a boy and sold eggs and chickens to the neighbors.

"And I have to tell you that later that chicken coop because Elaine and my first home as we went to law school at the University of Pittsburg. I couldn't have gone there if I didn't have a full honors scholarship and lived in that chicken coop," Hatch said.

Many in the crowd who listened to Hatch's story were Mormons, including Darlene Duncan of Des Moines.

"I know he's an honest, trustworthy man. He stands up for what he believes in and I just feel that he's the best man," Duncan said.

Hatch's host for the evening, insurance executive Doug Andersen, said the Utah Senator is a "marvelous" candidate.

"He's a new face in Iowa and I think that's refreshing. There's a lot of (presidential candidates) that we've seen here time after time and I think he is welcomed here," Andersen said.

On Monday, Hatch will tour a Des Moines dairy before leaving the state that hosts precinct caucuses in February, 2000.

July 23, 1999

Ice cream founder touts defense cuts.

(Des Moines, IA) A bus once used to hawk ice cream is now being used by a "dove-ish" group, which hopes to convince presidential candidates to agree to lower U.S. defense spending.

"Ben and Jerry's" bus is on a "U Slice the Pie" tour of Iowa on behalf of a group known as Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities.

"It's exciting. It's fun," said Peggy Huppert, the group's Iowa director. "It gets our message across in a graphic way, just the fact that the bus is covered with money, literally."

The garish bus, affectionately named Mabel by its owners, has been parked at various locations throughout Iowa's capital city this summer. It embarks Sunday on a 530-mile trek across Iowa with the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, known as RAGBRAI. The annual event is expected to draw up to 10,000 cyclists.

The bus will be staffed with three paid performers who'll park it along the RAGBRAI route to demonstrate the federal budget and the choices politicians could make.

"We have a show," said Huppert. "I like to watch people's reactions. Often it really changes their outlook on our federal budget process."

Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen will be along for this coming week's ride to give away ice cream and sound the call for defense cuts.

Huppert said the group would not endorse or oppose individual presidential candidates, but is hoping to convince Iowans to pressure the candidates on the issue.

"The ultimate goal is to educate and empower Iowans to really understand where our money is going. We think most Iowans agree with our message that we need more resources to be directed toward things like education and health care," Huppert said.

"Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities," a group of over 500 U.S. business executives and a handful of retired generals and admirals seeks a 15 percent cut in the U.S. Defense budget.