St. Petersburg Times
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 Tim Nickens

Times Political Editor
Reports and comments on national, state and local politics. Regular column appears in Sunday's Perspective.

Recent columns and reports


July 3, 2001
Spin aside, this deal will haunt Gov. Bush in '02
The Bush brothers promoted their agreement Monday on oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico as a significant compromise.

June 30, 2001
Racial issues keep dogging Republicans
Gov. Jeb Bush remains a frequent target of criticism as the 2002 gubernatorial election approaches.

June 17, 2001
Education will define 2002 governor's race
What we don't know about Florida's embryonic governor's race dwarfs what we know.

June 3, 2001
A weekend of brotherly love for the Bushes
As the president and Florida's governor enjoy the weekend at Camp David before heading to Everglades National Park and on to Tampa Monday, they should share more than Sunday dinner.

May 6, 2001
The Capitol command
TALLAHASSEE -- There was something missing in the legislative session that often had the decorum of a fraternity house.

April 29, 2001
Hope springs eternal for state Democrats in next year's governor's race
TALLAHASSEE -- It's hard to turn around without bumping into a Democrat who wants to be mentioned as a possible candidate for governor.

March 28, 2001
Mayor's role now Baker's to define
ST. PETERSBURG -- It seems only natural that Rick Baker will be the city's next mayor.

March 7, 2001
Gov. Bush sounds like Candidate Bush
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush delivered the first speech of his re-election campaign Tuesday.

First place is where Baker's work begins
Rick Baker can't play it safe.

March 4, 2001
It’s hard to peg Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush has an identity crisis.

Feb. 18, 2001
Disbelief, hard feelings
Three months after the presidential election, black voters in Florida don't accept the result and blame the state for rejecting their votes.

Baker’s supporters are nervous
Rick Baker has it all.

Jan. 12, 2001
Secretary of state speaks: 'I know I followed the law'
In her first interview since the election, the secretary of state talks about the process.

Dec. 13, 2000
Gore must now be a uniter, not divider
It's over.

Dec. 12, 2000
Nation looks to court for finality
There will be no perfect ending.

Dec. 7, 2000
Court's ruling faces history's judgment
TALLAHASSEE -- Al Gore called shortly after noon.

Dec. 3, 2000
Bogged down in detail
Trial recesses after 4 witnesses; will resume today

Nov. 23, 2000
Do we really want lawmakers picking president?
The fight for the presidency may be entering its most dangerous phase yet.

Nov. 21, 2000
Supreme showdown
Justices grill lawyers; decision could come today

Nov. 18, 2000
Court calls timeout
Overseas ballots give Bush 723-vote lead, but Florida Supreme Court says no winner today.

Nov. 12, 2000
'We're all in limbo'
Manual recount begins, but a judge will rule Monday on Bush's effort to block it

Nov. 11, 2000
Bush camp urges Gore to concede
George W. Bush turned up the heat on Al Gore Friday to give up his uphill fight for Florida and the presidential election.

Nov. 9, 2000
Recount begins as world watches
A zany night of election drama gives way to frantic days of waiting, watching in Florida.

Nov. 8, 2000
Tight race highlights shift in state's voters
After a long night of uncertainty, two things became clear in the wee hours of this morning.

Nov. 7, 2000
Time to decide
MIAMI BEACH -- For decades Florida has been known worldwide for its palm trees, beaches and theme parks.

Nov. 6, 2000
Staying positive as judgment nears
As George W. Bush crisscrosses Florida on Sunday, he says he will purge the country of the "old-style politics" of Al Gore.

Nov. 5, 2000
Clearly an interesting campaign of differences and learning
Al Gore gave us the convention kiss and the debate sigh. George W. Bush shared the smirk, the wink and a new pronunciation for subliminal.

Nov. 3, 2000
Midwest gets double dose of campaign stops
CHICAGO -- Al Gore and George W. Bush battled for the same territory on the ground and over the airwaves Thursday, crisscrossing the Midwest for large rallies and trading new accusations about leadership and character.

Bush acknowledges DUI conviction in '76
MILWAUKEE -- For the first time, George W. Bush acknowledged Thursday night that he was arrested and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in 1976 in Maine.

Oct. 31, 2000
Tougher tone, faster pace
BURBANK, Calif. -- George W. Bush says Al Gore can't bring people together. Gore says Bush "could drive our economy into the ditch."

Oct. 29, 2000
Deciding factor for Florida will be turnout, not TV and telephone ads
Florida's extraordinarily close race for president boils down to one word.

Oct. 22, 2000
George W. may have hurt himself with bad specifics
George W. Bush was all smiles as he left St. Louis last week.

16 days to make a final impression
The presidential contenders are mindful of every move they make as the race sprints to a finish.

Oct. 18, 2000
An improvement, but is it enough?
ST. LOUIS -- Finally, a debate worth watching.

Oct. 17, 2000
Perot's '92 tide ebbed in all directions
Those voters -- 20 percent in Florida -- are still disaffected, but with various results.

M, as in 'Mom,' works phones for W in Florida
When the going gets tough, the tough ... turn to their moms?

Oct. 15, 2000
In presidential race, it's not so clear anymore
Don't believe everything you read.

Oct. 14, 2000
A day of loss raises the stakes
Those words have long described the lay of the land heading into a presidential election that promises to be extremely close.

Oct. 8, 2000
Debates need a little oomph
Before their debate this week in North Carolina, George W. Bush and Al Gore ought to send their advisers back to the negotiating table.

Oct. 6, 2000
A gentlemanly contrast to presidential debate
More clearly and articulately than the men on the top of the ticket, Cheney and Lieberman thoughtfully outlined some of the campaigns' stark differences in areas such as tax policy, military readiness and Social Security.

Oct. 4, 2000
Debate doesn't sway close race
It was a little like the Super Bowl: much-anticipated, over-hyped, and, in the end, not all that satisfying.

Oct. 3, 2000
Up for grabs, Florida sees race heat up
LONGBOAT KEY -- Florida is becoming a second home for Al Gore and George W. Bush.

Sept. 29, 2000
Gore's backers: GOP out to scare
Republicans, likewise, say it's the vice president's drug plan that is scaring older Floridians.

Sept. 17, 2000
Florida offers some political contests worth watching

The caller was irate.

Sept. 13, 2000
With 'rats' and 'Friends,' Bush stumbling again
ORLANDO -- George W. Bush wanted to talk about long-term care Tuesday.

Sept. 10, 2000
With race tight, Bush turns to personal attacks on Gore
SCRANTON, Pa. -- The leaves have not started turning colors yet in the Lehigh Valley and the calendar says it's still summer, but the signs of fall are all around.

Aug. 27, 2000
Pressure on Bush now that Gore is on a natural roll
TAMARAC, FL. -- Al Gore reached for the tape recorder, but I grabbed it first.

Aug. 20, 2000
The way to win, Part 2
Here are four things Vice President Al Gore must do to become the next president.

Aug. 18, 2000
Democrats not leaving as one happy family
The main task for Al Gore, alongside running mate Joseph Lieberman, was convincing people that he is likable.

Aug. 15, 2000
Floridians feeling left out in L.A.
LOS ANGELES -- The political fortunes of Florida's Democrats and Republicans are now in perspective.

Aug. 6, 2000
The way to win
Here are four things Gov. George W. Bush must do to become the next president.

July 26, 2000
Choice of Cheney good for Graham
Over the Fourth of July weekend, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney spent time going over a list of possible vice presidential running mates at the Texas governor's isolated ranch.

July 23, 2000
Gore's attacks on Texas have limited success
AUSTIN, Texas -- Down at Capitol Saddlery, where a big black boot hangs over the door and saddles have been sold and repaired since 1930, there is no air conditioning, no waiting -- and no patience for Al Gore's attacks on Texas.

June 18, 2000
Senate GOP primary decided, but not by voters
If you blinked, you missed it.

June 11, 2000
To Gore's Tennessee campaigners, things are looking up for their candidate
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Inside Al Gore's national headquarters, phone lines were taped to the floor, the air conditioning was out and large floor fans stirred the thick air.

June 8, 2000
Gore takes to the air in Florida
Not willing to concede the state to George W. Bush, the Democratic candidate launches his push to win with $500,000 in television time.

June 4, 2000
McCollum's campaign consultant is doing a great job, for Gallagher
Finally, a pulse.

May 28, 2000
Reform Party suffers from its squabbling
This ought to be the best of times for the Reform Party.

Striving to be the education candidate
Gore and Bush tout school proposals, but educators and experts agree presidents have little say at the local level.

May 21, 2000
Social Security proposal makes for a good production
George W. Bush threw a match onto a dry presidential campaign last week when he rolled out his proposal to let younger workers divert part of their payroll taxes from Social Security into private retirement accounts.

May 14, 2000
Connerly's race debate leaves no winners
The question came up the other night after Kendrick Meek had given a surprise birthday party for his wife and everyone was watching the Miami Heat's playoff game against the New York Knicks.

May 7, 2000
Heartfelt finale incongruent with plot
In a legislative session riddled with retribution, special interests set the stage for "Let's Make a Deal."

Session's true victor unknown till November
Both parties agree the election will be a referendum on Gov. Jeb Bush and the GOP-led Legislature.

May 4, 2000
House votes for 'partial-birth' abortion ban
Gov. Bush says he will sign the bill. Opponents say they will take their fight to the courts once again.

April 30, 2000
Session shaped by last hurrahs
The departure of so many lawmakers -- because of term limits -- helps set the mood at the state Capitol.

Their friendship adds new dynamic to state politics
They stood near each other in the nearly empty House chamber, admiring another gorgeous mural illustrating Florida's history by Tarpon Springs artist Christopher Still.

April 27, 2000
Legal concerns can't stop passion for abortion ban
The Senate again votes to end "partial-birth" abortions, despite lingering constitutional questions.

April 23, 2000
Reaction to pre-dawn raid varies by politics
Her glasses slipped down her nose but her voice never wavered.

April 16, 2000
Media didn't create negative campaigns
There is a difference between fair comparisons and negative attacks.

April 9, 2000
Al Gore stumbles about as he seeks a stance on Elian
The happiest person in Washington to see Elian Gonzalez's father arrive from Cuba last week should have been Al Gore.

April 8, 2000
Elian? Gore is quiet. Schools? Verbose
TAMPA -- Al Gore pretended it was business as usual Friday in Florida politics.

April 2, 2000
'Feisty' Democrat brings fresh leadership to party

TALLAHASSEE -- From Tennessee Street, drivers can see the blue sign in the window of Carlos' Cuban Cafe.

March 26, 2000
By November, it could be the gas pump that defines the election

Gasoline went up another couple of pennies per gallon at the station on the corner the other day. It cost $32 to fill up the Explorer.

March 19, 2000
Sen. Bob Graham for vice president? It's fun to dream

Let's take a deep breath before we get our Florida ties all in a knot.

March 9, 2000
Bush brothers stray from middle

The bloom is off the Bush brothers.

March 8, 2000
Gore, Bush rack up big wins

Bradley concedes defeat in Tuesday's votes. McCain takes a few states, but not enough to outlast Bush.

March 7, 2000
Tonight could wrap it all up

It has been cooking for months, with more spice than the original recipe provided.

March 5, 2000
Candidates' errors litter road to White House

Let's get ahead of the curve.

March 4, 2000
Florida loses its primary importance

TV campaign ads are all but non-existent this primary season because the presidential nods may be locked up by March 14.

March 3, 2000
Bush's remarks widen divide

Black and Jewish Democrats tell the governor to retract what they say are insulting comparisons.

March 1, 2000
Jeb Bush defends brother's visit to Bob Jones University

Addressing Bob Jones University doesn't mean you buy into their values, he says. In fact, Jeb Bush says he'd speak there, too.

Feb. 29, 2000
Private life shaped candidate as much as public

John McCain's campaign for president is built on character, integrity and values.

Feb. 24, 2000
Ups, downs keep GOP race exciting

Al Gore should send John McCain a thank-you note.

Feb. 23, 2000
McCain strikes back

DOUBLE VICTORY: Democrats, independents propel the senator to a win in Michigan over George W. Bush. His home state of Arizona gives him a landslide.

Feb. 20, 2000
True to form, S.C. protects the front-runner

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The fire wall still stands and so does George W. Bush.

Feb. 19, 2000
Bush is confident S.C. 'fire wall' can contain McCain

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Karl Rove, the top strategist for George W. Bush, showed up on the campaign plane Friday morning wearing a firefighter's jacket and helmet.

Feb. 18, 2000
Bush adapts game plan from McCain's playbook

FLORENCE, S.C. -- At Ebenezer Baptist Church Thursday morning, George W. Bush's conversion appeared complete.

Feb. 17, 2000
Bush campaign has spent $50-million

Now that he has spent more than any other previous candidate, Bush has only $20-million. Not to worry, he says, he'll raise more.

Feb. 13, 2000
Attorney general offers quieter One Florida view

Bob Butterworth could rip into Jeb Bush and get people to listen.

Feb. 10, 2000
Done in by Delaware, Forbes folds his tent

In the end, one of the smallest states knocked out the candidate with the biggest wallet.

Feb. 9, 2000
Gore fields voters' 'softball' questions adroitly

Al Gore presents his agenda to friendly listeners in Tampa. He, too, is critical of efforts to replace affirmative action.

Feb. 8, 2000
In Tampa, Bradley takes on Bush

The Democratic presidential candidate says Gov. Jeb Bush's overhaul of affirmative action lacks vision.

Feb. 6, 2000
It's time for George W. to toss the script and talk to us

In more than seven months of campaigning, George W. Bush has proven he can deliver a speech.

Feb. 3, 2000
McCain riding high toward S.C. hurdle

NASHUA, N.H. -- The ice sculpture stood like a battle monument outside the hotel Wednesday long after the victor had headed south.

Feb. 2, 2000
McCain scores landslide

McCain scoops up 49 percent of New Hampshire's GOP vote to Bush's 31 percent.

Jan. 30, 2000
New Hampshire: McCain's first -- and last? -- stand

HAMPTON, N.H. -- For John McCain, New Hampshire is a stage on open-mike night.

The TV's not broken, it's just the candidates
NASHUA, N.H. -- With all their might, they cling to the quaint notion here that voters don't decide which presidential candidate they like until they meet the candidates a few times before Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary.

Jan. 25, 2000
Up next: a battle for votes, respect in New Hampshire
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Overnight, Iowa turned back into a pumpkin.

Jan. 23, 2000
Bradley hopes not to be left out in Iowa's cold

Frigid temperatures aren't the only problems the Democratic underdog's campaign has faced in the week leading up to Monday's caucuses.

Gore doesn't let truth get in way of Bradley attacks
INDIANOLA, Iowa -- The staging was perfect.

Jan. 20, 2000
In Iowa, the key to victory is exceeding expectations

DES MOINES, Iowa -- After spending nearly a week roaming around here, some questions remain unanswered.

Jan. 16, 2000
Candidates trade low-tech jabs in a high-tech world

Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.

Jan. 9, 2000
The expected -- and unexpected

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- In the first week of the election year, presidential politics offered both the predictable and the unexpected.

Jan. 6, 2000
Bradley, Gore trade punches

The Democrats, running even in New Hampshire, look for each other's weak points.

Jan. 3, 2000
Unwatched, campaign has taken shape

Millions have been raised. Candidates have come and gone. And all that happened even before this election year started.

Dec. 19, 1999
With post-busing secret out, real work begins

It is remarkable what can happen overnight because of a little sunshine.

Dec. 12, 1999
John McCain's uphill battle

EXETER, N.H. -- John McCain walked around the stage at Phillips Exeter Academy as though he owned it, tossing one-liners like candy to the overflow crowd sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on long wooden benches.

Gore receives endorsement from his boss
ORLANDO -- Bill Clinton and Al Gore are a tag team again.

Dec. 10, 1999
In Florida, Gore to find relief from N.H. chill

Vice President Al Gore, locked in a tight race with challenger Bill Bradley in New Hampshire, will find a warmer reception this weekend in Florida.

Dec. 4, 1999
Debate does little to change course of Republican race

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The day after the great debate that wasn't, the world of Republican presidential politics still spun in the same direction.

Nov. 28, 1999
Polls as addictive -- and temporary -- as your leftover pie

Opinion polls are addictive.

Nov. 22, 1999
Campaign swings include visit to Internet

This is the first presidential campaign where all of the major candidates are using Web sites to go along with traditional television ads to get their messages out to voters.

Nov. 21, 1999
Politics puts wedge into Bush's alliance with state senator

Florida Democrats don't have many bright young stars.

Nov. 14, 1999
They may be more conservative, but they can't win

Charles Spencer stood in line to get into a George W. Bush fundraiser last week in Jacksonville and acknowledged his own views are more conservative than the Texas governor's.

Bush's move fails to dampen race debate
Gov. Jeb Bush's ambitious effort to end race-based preferences in state contracting and university admissions was supposed to pour cold water over a simmering debate about affirmative action.

Nov. 10, 1999
Forbes, Keyes attack Bush from the right

The candidates tell the Christian Coalition that George W. Bush isn't the man to carry the conservative standard.

Nov. 7, 1999
Anxious Floridians in the mood for change

Despite a robust economy, Florida voters are divided over the country's direction, anxious about Social Security, alarmed about gun violence -- and ready to send a Republican to the White House.

Oct. 30, 1999
Bradley courts Florida, gains lessons

MIAMI -- It's still a tiny dot compared with Iowa and New Hampshire, but Florida is showing up on Bill Bradley's radar screen.

Oct. 28, 1999
Policy dominates Democratic faceoff

Al Gore and Bill Bradley stick to particulars only policy wonks can appreciate, leaving those looking for excitement looking elsewhere.

Oct. 27, 1999
Democrat face-to-face might not be cordial

Bradley could be forced to respond to Gore's attacks at a forum tonight.

Oct. 24, 1999
Debate over commission elections is lopsided

In an ideal world, public debate over changing the way Pinellas elects county commissioners would be like a see-saw balanced in mid-air.

Oct. 8, 1999
Pioneering campaigners make cash flow for Bush

The presidential candidate will meet these Florida fundraisers, those who raise at least $100,000, at the state GOP convention.

Oct. 3, 1999
Fast-paced presidential race leaves Florida on sidelines

Exactly eight years ago today, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton announced he would run for president.

Sept. 28, 1999
Quayle exits; McCain boosts field

The size of the field of Republican presidential candidates held steady Monday, yet the quality improved substantially.

Sept. 19, 1999
A faint hope for campaign finance reforms

It is the most basic and useful advice in journalism and politics: Follow the money.

Sept. 12, 1999
Here's an idea: John Lombardi for U.S. Senate

This could be a match made in heaven. Or a brainstorm that sounds good only after a beer or two.

Sept. 5, 1999
A few presidential campaign questions to ponder by the pool

Ah, Labor Day weekend.

Aug. 29, 1999
Pinellas needs a few good leaders

They are as reliable and familiar as a sunset on the beach.

Aug. 22, 1999
Gov. Bush's summer essay of woes

If Gov. Jeb Bush were to imitate children who are returning to Florida schools and writing about their summers, his essay would not be as upbeat as most.

Aug. 8, 1999
Iowa straw poll nothing more than a field of hype

In the movies, Kevin Costner built a baseball diamond in an Iowa cornfield to fulfill his dream.

July 18, 1999
Districts won't faze politics

Talk about timing.

July 11, 1999
Military service is fading as a campaign issue

In past elections, Dan Quayle and Bill Clinton were under fire for months about Vietnam and the draft and how they avoided both.

July 4, 1999
The faces are new, but the plot sure seems familiar

We have seen this movie before.

June 27, 1999
With new leader, Florida Democrats show signs of spunk

The last time we checked in at the Florida Democratic Party, it looked pretty grim.

June 20, 1999
The early scouting report

Floridians, at least those of us who have not fled to North Carolina to escape the heat, are about to get a dose of presidential politics.

June 6, 1999
We'll soon learn if George W. Bush has what it takes

It was a softball question about presidential politics that U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Rocks Beach answered with candor.

May 23, 1999
With switch, Bradley takes respectable risk

Rudy Bradley has assured himself a place in Florida history.

May 16, 1999
Willie Logan plays his hand well

Do not underestimate Willie Logan.

May 9, 1999
Biting the apple of campaign finance reform

Toni Jennings used a simple, homespun metaphor to describe a last-ditch attempt at campaign finance reform.

May 2, 1999
For Bush, a new round of challenges

TALLAHASSEE -- So far, Jeb Bush has been both lucky and good.

Personal profile:
Education: B.A. from Indiana University in journalism and forensic studies.

Family: Wife, Bridget, two daughters and one fat cat.

Favorite Musician: Bruce Springsteen.

Favorite Florida campaigns: Connie Mack vs. Buddy MacKay for the U.S. Senate in 1988, Jeb Bush vs. Lawton Chiles for governor in 1994. Close races with clear choices are always the most interesting.

Best book I ever read describing the characters, color and emotion of political campaigns: Trail Fever: Spin Doctors, Rented Strangers, and Thumb Wrestlers on the Road to the White House by Michael Lewis.


E-mail Tim Nickens at: nickens@sptimes.com

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