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The Candidate

Democratic Waterboy?: Jerry
Estruth carries the party message:
Neutralize Newt

Who is that guy running against Campbell for Norm Mineta's seat? So far, the battle's been more about stopping Newt than getting to know Tom or Jerry

By Jennifer Davies

Democratic congressional candidate Jerry Estruth is hidden from view, as Secret Service agents circulate and hordes of reporters loiter in the roped-off press area under a white tent at BJS Electronics in north San Jose. Magenta, saffron and orange-colored turbans dot the crowd of about 200 attendees, each having paid anywhere from $500 to $1,000 to listen to Vice President Al Gore bash Republicans for the impending budget crisis and stump for Estruth.

Gore's visit occurs just two days before budget talks between President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress reach an impasse, forcing a shutdown of the federal government. The news value of the battle provides a dramatic backdrop for this event and, in fact, the whole campaign.

While waiting for Gore to arrive, reporters buzz about the significance of the vice presidential visit, just weeks before the special election in one of the most coveted congressional districts in the nation. One television reporter engages Mark Simon of the San Francisco Chronicle in a guessing game about what well-known Republican could make a similar appearance for their candidate, state Sen. Tom Campbell. "I really can't think of anyone other than Jack Kemp," muses the reporter. "Maybe Bush. Certainly not Gingrich."

Certainly not, indeed. In the moderate 15th Congressional District, recently orphaned by the exit of its longtime representative, Democrat Norm Mineta, Newt Gingrich is considered poison. (At a recent Republican fundraising event, the speaker ducked in and out of the Fairmont so fast, half the reporters waiting to talk to him didn't even get to see him.)

So when Al Gore finally ascends to the podium with a buoyant Estruth in tow, the vice president wastes no time in hitting the campaign's main theme, denouncing Gingrich with partisan vitriol. The gist of Gore's message is that Estruth is a good guy, but the real reason to send him into Congress is to stop Newt in his tracks.

At the conclusion of his speech, Gore takes Estruth's hand in his and raises their arms over their heads in a classic victory pose. Estruth, "the consensus candidate of the Democratic Party," beams as photographers and video cameras record the moment.

Moment of Estruth: Mild-mannered former councilmember Jerry Estruth has returned from a decade on the political sidelines in a Forrest Gump-like rise to national celebrity.

The high-profile event represents a metamorphosis for Estruth, who, only three days earlier, had stood among a handful of spectators at the Los Gatos Creek Trail to receive a staged endorsement by the California League of Conservation Voters. Along with Metro, the event drew a Spanish television station, the Campbell Express and a flock of geese, who honked at inopportune moments during Estruth's speech. Even Estruth's announcement to run in the special election Dec. 12 failed to make a blip on the media radar screen.

Jerry Estruth's transformation from former council member and to the Democratic Party's brightest hope reveals a paradigm shift in national politics, from individuals to party affiliations. It is a shift that has left Estruth--a former stockbroker and behind-the-scene community leader who prides himself on nuanced compromise--slinging mud, defending doctored photographs and following a party line not entirely of his own making.

Friends worry that he has been overshadowed by the national organizers, along with the grass-roots supporters who have worked by his side. Betsy Bryant, Estruth's high school friend and supporter, says she and others are concerned that the Washington power brokers are leading him astray.

"He has a group of handlers that are trying to grab him away from his closest associates," Bryant says. "Jerry at times will try so hard to make everybody happy. He wants to keep his friends happy and he wants to keep the Washington groupies happy. It might make him appear indecisive, but in the end he'll be very decisive."

Estruth insists, however, that he is "in the loop" on all campaign decisions. He points to Joe Trippi, his longtime friend and an SJSU graduate, who helped out with his first council bid and now is back producing Estruth's television ads with his Washington-based firm, as evidence that he is not a puppet of the Democratic Party.

"I don't think I've given the campaign over to the Democratic power brokers at all. We have a message and the message is right on," Estruth says calmly. "These are issues I approve; they're real. If Congress isn't a national office, let's stay home and run for state Senate. These are national issues. Newt Gingrich is a national issue, and placing Mr. Campbell with Newt Gingrich is a real issue in this campaign."

The national Democratic Party's involvement, and prolific fundraising--half a million dollars and counting--has Estruth caught up in a battle that seems to have little to do with his personality and qualifications and everything to do with partisan politics.

The Democrats see the congressional seat, which includes South San Jose, Santa Clara and half of Santa Cruz County, as a bellwether district for the nation. If Estruth succeeds, they say, it will begin to turn the tide on Newt Gingrich and his so-called Republican Revolution. For Campbell, a notoriously moderate and popular local Republican politician, the race puts him in the uncomfortable position of defending his record and his party while trying to distance himself from Newt Gingrich and the religious right. The partisan clash--seen as a harbinger of the coming presidential election in 1996--has landed the once small special election on the pages of Time magazine.

Terry Christensen, a San Jose State professor of political science, who also helped pinpoint Estruth as a candidate, says the timing of the special election, combined with the 15th District's moderate political bent, puts this area in the national spotlight.

"It's not unprecedented, but it is rare for one race to get this much attention," Christensen says. "Everyone is looking to see what happens here as an indication of the political mood."

Hot Handler

Estruth's media handler, Jay Marlin, came on board the Estruth campaign after Rob Engel, political director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, recommended him. Up until a few weeks ago, Marlin was working on the Louisiana governor's race, where his candidate missed the runoff by 7,500 votes; a fact Marlin stresses repeatedly. On this bright morning, he's putting the finishing touches on another pseudo-event he's cooked up--a first-class airline ticket from Washington to San Jose for Newt Gingrich if he'll come out and campaign for one of his party's own, opponent Tom Campbell.

Minutes prior to the press conference, Marlin is sitting at his desk making last-minute calls to the editors and writers who have already received his faxed press release. His bright blue eyes staring at his list, Marlin is doing the hard sell, speaking in fast, staccato rhythms accented by a playful, hyena-like chuckle.

As choreographed, Estruth positions himself with California Democratic Party Chair Bill Press, who flew in just for the 10-minute event, in front of a huge blow-up picture of the ticket.

Press does most of the talking and emphasizes they bought a first-class ticket, so Gingrich wouldn't feel snubbed, an obvious allusion to Gingrich's complaints about his treatment on the return trip from Yitzhak Rabin's funeral.

A woman from KLIV radio station kneels before Press and Estruth, raising her microphone over her head. The radio reporter says, "This sounds like some kind of joke or something?"

Press responds with passionate indignation, "This is no joke. Tom Campbell is Newt Gingrich in disguise."

Estruth stands at one side of the huge ticket and smiles.

Like it or not, this is the hyperbolic state of affairs in the race for the 15th Congressional District. The television ads on both sides have been overwhelmingly negative, with Estruth charging that Tom Campbell is a Newt Gingrich clone and Campbell slamming Estruth for the $60 million bond loss that occurred while Estruth served on the San Jose City Council between 1978 and 1984.

But Estruth says he has no problem with the direction the race has taken.

"This race is not about Jerry Estruth and his past sins. It's not about Tom Campbell and his past sins. It's about Newt Gingrich and the direction of this country," Estruth tells members of the Democratic Century Club at their luncheon. "This is going to be a battle. And I promise you it will be hard fought. When it's over, win or lose, Tom Campbell will know he's been in battle."

The anti-Gingrich message seems to be working. According to the Washington, D.C.-based Rothenberg Political Report, a race that was considered a lock for moderate Republican Tom Campbell is now being described by GOP insiders as "a tossup." And the insider congressional newsletter, Roll Call Politics, reports that in the past month Estruth has cut Campbell's lead in half, to less than 12 points.

Man in the Machine

A reasonable question at this point is: How did a polite, Peace Corps veteran like Jerry Estruth end up in a race like this? When Norm Mineta suddenly resigned his congressional seat in September of this year, local Democrats in Santa Clara County began the mad scramble to find a candidate who could take on popular Republican state senator and former congressman Tom Campbell.

Taking a cue from the Republicans, who for years have fielded consensus candidates, Steve Preminger, the chair of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, and Amy Dean of the Labor Council helped spearhead a candidate-selection process. Several potential candidates indicated interest and went through the process while more prominent Democrats begged out of the race, namely San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer. Hammer aides say she declined because she felt she'd have more power as mayor than as a freshman in the House of Representatives.

So the Democrats went forward with a field of relative unknowns. After extensive interviews to determine who made the short list of possible candidates, the Labor Council paid for a telephone poll of 500 people to see which had the best chance of beating Campbell.

Estruth came out the clear winner, says Dean, although she won't name the other possible candidates or the poll numbers. Annie Dandavati, one of the potential candidates, briefly considered running despite the decision to go with Estruth, but in the end backed Estruth's candidacy. For her support, she received the plum assignment of introducing Gore at that fundraiser.

If the whole things smacks of a back-room deal, it shouldn't, Preminger says. "It was a consensus. It really was a process that everyone felt good about both as process and at the outcome," Preminger says.

And as soon as the candidate was chosen, the national Democratic Party clicked into motion. Dean claims that calls between the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and local politicos occurred "organically" with both sides making calls to each other around the same time. Sensing there was a possibility for retaining a longstanding democratic seat, the DCCC decided to put its resources behind Jerry Estruth, sending some of its fundraising minions, mostly from Southern California, to help raise the estimated $750,000 needed to keep Jerry Estruth on television.

Like Robert Redford in The Candidate, Estruth has proven himself a willing subject. In interviews and in speeches he is, as they say in the political consulting biz, "on message."

"No to Newt. Tom Campbell voted with Newt Gingrich 76 percent of the time. I wouldn't vote for Newt Gingrich for Speaker," is slipped into every pitch possible, over and over again.

It is hard to get past the message and understand the man. And the question is: Who is Jerry Estruth? Will he make an effective congressman? Friends from high school, business associates and former council colleagues describe Estruth as a man who deeply cares about his family, his friends and his community.

"His handlers will try to remake him," contends Betsy Bryant, a longtime friend and supporter. "But Jerry doesn't need to be remade."

Of the many people interviewed, only one had anything negative to say about Estruth and that was Claude Fletcher, a conservative Republican and a former council rival.

"Jerry Estruth will give a demeanor that is folksy and Lincolnesque, but he's really a political animal," Fletcher says. "He's certainly an intelligent manipulator of the political scene."

In some ways, Estruth seems to have kaleidoscope qualities. At one moment his tall frame, his aquiline nose and wavy gray hair make him look like a British aristocrat. Other times, particularly when he dons a flannel or denim shirt, he looks like a man of the people. Jay Marlin, his press guru, suggests a resemblance to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and he isn't wrong.

"I don't think he is easily captured," says former mayor Tom McEnery. "He's a complex man. He's able to deal effectively with developers and yet he is a very Sierra Club kind of guy. He understands that in politics you sometimes have to take half a loaf."

On paper, Estruth appears to be the prototype of what a candidate should be. A former San Jose councilmember, he is viewed as a conscientious civic leader who has volunteered for the Cancer Society, Planned Parenthood and even the Boy Scouts. He campaigned for and now serves on the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, which purchases and protects undeveloped land. A former Peace Corps volunteer, he speaks fluent Spanish and counts Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy as his heroes.

Steve Preminger, the chair of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, is fully aware of the candidate's appeal. "He's a good labor supporter and strong on the environment. We were impressed with his work on the Cancer Society. A really, genuinely good man, a family man," Preminger says. "I don't want to make him sound like a poster boy, but in a way he is"

A fourth-generation Santa Clara Valley resident, Estruth does not come from a privileged background. Estruth's father was a switchman for the Southern Pacific Railroad, who valued a strong work ethic and often bragged about his 44 years of accident-free service to the railroad, says Estruth. His mother was a church secretary at the Trinity Episcopalian Church, the church the Estruth still attends. Politics were never discussed at Estruth dinner table, but family issues, work and especially school were the topics of conversation. Estruth went on to become the valedictorian of his 1960 Lincoln High School class and was active in many school activities. Classmates remember him fondly.

"Jerry came from more humble beginnings than the other students. But he fit in everywhere," says Betsy Bryant, a high school chum. "Jerry was the brightest one of our class, but he never lorded it over anyone. He was loved by everyone. He would befriend the shy kid that nobody would talk to. He was just that kind of person. He can walk with kings, but he still understands the common man."

Estruth went onto Stanford after high school, paying for his tuition with a combination of scholarship money, his father's help and "a lot of dishwashing." Between his freshman and sophomore years at Stanford, Estruth learned through the student health center that he had a congenital spine defect. He was placed in a body cast for 77 days, an experience which Estruth says taught him patience, but ultimately freed him from pain and enabled him to participate in sports.

After graduating with a degree in economics, Estruth joined the Peace Corps, serving five years in Colombia working on an agricultural project, helping with small pox vaccinations and coaching the country's volleyball team. When it was time to return to the United States, there was no question about his destination. He came back home, to the city where he grew up.

Political Animals

In 1978, Estruth decided to take on popular and conservative San Jose City Council member Joe Colla, who died earlier this year. Estruth says at the time he felt the city was going in the wrong direction on growth issues and that his election might help speed the development of San Jose.

Estruth barely made it into a run-off, but came back to whop Colla with 62 percent of the vote. That campaign helped change the face of San Jose's city government and ushered in a new era of leadership with a commitment to controlled growth policies taking center stage.

Estruth served on the council until 1984, championing such diverse causes as anti-prostitution measures and workplace smoking bans. It was during that time that San Jose suffered a $60 million bond loss, which has been the focus of Campbell's attacks on him, including the use of old San Jose Mercury News clippings to prove its assertion that Estruth is "a risk we just can't afford." But those who served in city government at the time, both on the council and as staff, say that Estruth bears none of the blame that Campbell's ads have heaped on him. Former City Manager Les White even wrote: "The ads are false and misleading when they state that Jerry Estruth voted to invest San Jose's tax dollars in risky investments. Rather than being responsible for the mess, Jerry Estruth played an important role in cleaning it up."

Another scandal came during his failed Assembly bid against Rusty Areias when Estruth accepted a $10,000 donation from Betty Cote, a secretary to once-influential developer Ray Collishaw.

To this day Estruth claims that he believes Cote was the one behind the donation. "I had no reason to believe it didn't come from Betty," he says. "I had known her for several years and been friendly with her."

Estruth left the council in 1984 to concentrate on his business and his family. Estruth has a daughter, Jennifer, from a previous marriage, a stepson and a four-year-old son by his present wife, Margo.

Estruth in many ways seems of a different era in politics, citing Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. as influences, despite the cliche of doing so. There is little passion in his speaking style as he parrots the most overused of Kennedy's quotes. Despite this, you never doubt Estruth's conviction. When he talks about Kennedy, for instance, Estruth's face softens just slightly and he lowers his voice.

"He had the ability to give people hope. The expectation that life and the world can be a better place than it was when you found it. I still believe that today that everybody should leave the world a little better place," he says. "That's one of the things I find in running for Congress. The Congress right now is extremely mean-spirited. We can have a better Congress, one that's not as mean-spirited."

Tom and Jerry

Ironiclly, the race for the coveted 15th Congressional District seat has been defined by mean-spirited attacks and reactions. Campbell, for example, remains outraged at Estruth's glossy eight-page campaign brochure that describes Estruth "As the only candidate who is a parent children [sic]." In a somewhat histrionic letter sent some days after the publication, Campbell demanded that Estruth apologize to Campbell's wife for the slight.

"You reached a new low with your mailer which arrived yesterday in which you attack my wife and me for not having children," Campbell wrote. "I do not believe that a candidate's family should ever be subject to political attacks. You have crossed the line and shown that you are willing to violate any standard of fairness, respect, or even simple decency in order to be elected."

If this response seem over the top, it probably should.

But perhaps Campbell is a little punchy from all the heat Estruth's campaign has heaped upon him. He says the race has been negative from the get-go, especially Estruth's television commercials that concentrate almost entirely on Newt Gingrich and his record. They are the cornerstone of Estruth's campaign and where the bulk of the campaign money is going. The commercials, which Estruth approves of, display an ominous black-and-white photo of Newt's huge mug with the tag line, "Jerry Estruth. Newt Gingrich hasn't heard of him yet. But he will."

Campbell is getting more than a little tired of this type of attack. At a recent debate, Lieu Dao, the independent candidate, who has received little attention in the race, complained that her opponents were ignoring her. Campbell responded, "Be careful of what you wish for. I doubt you'd want your face next to Newt Gingrich every night on the television."

Campbell says the ads skew his positions and his voting record. And it's true that Campbell is a moderate Republican, supporting gay rights and a woman's right to choose an abortion. He opposed Proposition 187 and has a strong environmental record, although the California League of Conservation Voters says Campbell has backtracked on some of his more pro-environment stances.

As for the Republican-controlled Congress, he believes there are both good and bad points to their leadership. Campbell says when he was in Congress from 1988 to 1992, the debate was if and not when the budget would be balanced. Now both sides have agreed that the budget will be balanced in seven years, an important shift.

But Campbell concedes dismay over the direction of the Republican Party in terms of social issues, especially the increasing power of the religious right and its ability to set his party's agenda.

"There is no doubt that the religious right would like me out of politics," says Campbell in his office at Stanford Law School where he has taught since 1983. "Ask any of them. I say that without fear of contradiction. Call up Ralph Reed [leader of the Christian Coalition] and check with him. I've debated him. I disagree with him. I believe the influence of the far right has been deleterious to our party and our country."

Despite the division of their party affiliations, the two candidates are not far apart on most issues. Both support a balanced budget, but Estruth says he opposes the $270 billion cut in Medicare. Campbell has argued that Medicare does need to be cut, but that the Republicans in Congress need to make their spending cuts more humane to gain the public's trust and support. Both oppose U.S. intervention in Bosnia, but Estruth also wants to get rid of the U.S. troops stationed in Japan and Europe. Both supported NAFTA, and Estruth is in favor of the three-strikes-you're-out law, as is Campbell.

Their differences include Estruth's support for the National Endowment for the Arts while Campbell voted against funding. The two men also differ on affirmative action; Estruth, stealing Clinton's line, says it should be mended not ended. Campbell, on the other hand, has a lengthy intellectual discourse on why and how affirmative action should be jettisoned.

Estruth, who has been out of politics for more than a decade, tends to fall back on pithy sound bites. Campbell's strength lies in his complete command of the issues and his own specific proposals, along with exceptional talent in articulating his views. The difference in specificity is no more evident than in the difference between each candidate's Web sites. Estruth's is just a few pages of broad policy stances and biographical information. Campbell's contains pages and pages of details on his views on issues ranging from federalism to the ozone layer.

On the subject of Newt Gingrich, the symbol of division in this race, Campbell goes so far as to say he would work hard within his party's caucuses to elect a different Speaker of the House. He concedes, however, if the Republican caucus nominated Newt, he would have to support their choice.

"Campbell is a bright guy and is about as moderate and independent a Republican as you will find," comments Christiansen. "But the fact of the matter is he will be a vote for Gingrich."

Campbell, of course, doesn't see it that way.

"If I make it back to the Congress, I will be a voice within the moderate wing. If, God forbid, I fail and the Democrats are successful in saying that I am the same as Newt Gingrich, that does a tremendous amount of harm to the moderate wing of the Republican Party," Campbell says thoughtfully. "It misrepresents to the voters this monolithic view which the far right might wish to present to the voters. So in that sense the National Democrats and the religious right would have a mutual interest."

Campbell says that there are currently 70 moderate members in the House of Representatives who wield great power in policy decisions because Gingrich needs them on votes. Unfortunately for Campbell and other moderate Republicans like him, the field for compromise is shifting ever to the right.

For Amy Dean of the Labor Council, there is no way Campbell could wield any sort of influence over Gingrich and his followers.

"While Tom Campbell might allege he's not a clone going off to vote with the Speaker and support the radical right, that's simply not the case," Dean says. "If he chooses to distance himself, he will find himself without any power. This Speaker demands the discipline of a Bolshevik. Gingrich rewards and punishes based on if you vote the party line."

Party On

The party line is becoming an increasing chasm in American politics. You can hear it in Rep. Dick Gephardt's (D-Missouri) voice on the eve of the federal government shutdown when he telephoned to address those attending a fundraiser for Estruth at Mayor Hammer's house. Local politicians, such as Councilmember Trixie Johnson, and other such Hammer allies mill about her spacious Rosegarden home, noshing on hors d'oeuvres and sipping wine. Gephardt was supposed to make a personal appearance, but was forced to cancel his trip to San Jose because of the budget imbroglio.

"I really wish I was there with you. I don't think you know how much I wish I was there with you," Gephardt says drolly through the speakers. "What's worse is I'm here with Mr. Newt going through the throes of shutting down the government."

Later in the address Gephardt argues that Gingrich is trying to change American politics into a parliamentary form of government where people vote for representatives based solely on party. It is an ironic statement, considering Gephardt's closing pledge is to spend every minute of his free time raising funds for Estruth, a man Gephardt barely knows.

But a switch to parliamentary government seems unlikely since the shenanigans of both parties have made voters weary and cynical about the political process.

Kevin Spillane, of the Campbell campaign, is aware that Newt and the recent budget crisis will have some impact on the election, although he's not sure what the exact fallout will be.

"I think it's a case of a pox on both your houses," Spillane surmises.

McEnery says it is unfortunate that these two fine men cannot have a more civil, issue-based campaign.

"These are two exceptional people; they are so superior to the average dolts sitting in Congress," McEnery says. "If these two guys can't have a high-level campaign, then who can? Is it any wonder that people are turning away from the two parties in droves?"

A glorious Saturday morning provides the backdrop for the first debate of the campaign, which the Association of American Retired People is sponsoring. The walk leading to the large conference room in the pristine Campbell Community Center is lined with Estruth campaign signs and an Estruth supporter hands out glossy campaign literature. Inside about 60 seniors and some Estruth supporters are seated in ordered pink plastic chairs.

At the front of the room sits the three candidates for Congress, Republican Tom Campbell, Democrat Jerry Estruth and Independent Lieu Dao. The debate starts out predictably with each candidate stressing their main themes, Campbell preaches fiscal responsibility, Estruth argues his No to Newt slogan, and the soft-spoken Dao says she's the only independent candidate able to transcend petty partisan politics.

The debates inches along with little interest.

But for his closing remarks, Campbell strides over to the end of the table where the candidates are sitting and picks up Estruth's campaign literature and returns to the podium. After re-emphasizing his commitment to fiscal responsibility, Campbell methodically criticizes his opponent's campaign tactics, saying his ads erroneously portray his voting record and unfairly link him to the unpopular Speaker of the House.

"The ads my opponent has been running were made in Washington under the direction of the National Democratic Party," Campbell charges. "They are one size fits all."

"I want you to consider carefully who is the more independent candidate," Campbell says. "Somebody who is prepared to and has voted against the leadership of his own party many, many times or somebody who has taken prepackaged campaign ads from Washington?"

Some of the audience members nod and mutter their approval.

"I have been very distressed about the nature of the campaign," Campbell continues, gaining steam. He unfolds his copy of the Estruth campaign literature and asks the audience to study their own copies.

"Take a look at it right now," he encourages them and guides them to the back page, where there is an incredibly unattractive picture of Campbell standing in front of a superimposed image of Newt Gingrich's visage. As Spillane, Campbell's campaign manager, has it described, it looks like a Hitler Youth rally with Campbell yucking it up over cuts in Medicare and education.

"This is a doctored photograph," Campbell says angrily. "Mr. Estruth, you should not have done this. This photograph did not take place. Mr. Estruth, I yield the rest of my time to you to explain why you put out a doctored photograph and put out an inaccurate representation to the people of this district."

Campbell sits down with a flourish as the audience claps wildly.

Jerry Estruth stands up stretching his lanky frame. His answer is quick and pat, perhaps too pat.

"There's an old saying: If the shoe fits, wear it."

A few groan at the response.

Estruth continues to dance around the answer of whether the photo is doctored. (Which, by the way, it most certainly and obviously is.)

The seniors assembled start grumbling at his evasiveness.

One shouts out, "Answer the question. Is it doctored?"

Estruth looks down at the podium briefly and uncomfortably shifts his weight and again answers with a non answer.

"Methinks he protests too much," Estruth says, paraphrasing Shakespeare to imply that Campbell is secretly in step with Gingrich's agenda.

Shouts for an answer are met with pleas for quiet. The cacophony becomes too uncomfortable for the polite senior citizens sitting in this room, and they fall silent, allowing Estruth to get back to his message and conclude on a high note.

"I don't think we need to send another vote for Newt Gingrich," he says authoritatively. "Let's send Jerry Estruth."

The group applauds enthusiastically although many clapping are not AARP members but Estruth supporters there to pack the hall.

After the debate, media advisor Jay Marlin comes bounding over.

"He got you," a reporter says, referring to the debate's somewhat contentious ending.

"Methinks he protests too much," Marlin responds gleefully. "He's running scared from Newt Gingrich. He's in the lead. Everybody knows he's in the lead. What's the problem?" In spin-doctor overdrive, Marlin repeats the protest-too-much pitch several times. In modern-day politics, where rhetoric and reality are one and the same, it's as if repetition will make it so.

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From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 1995 issue of Metro

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