Iowa Lawyer At Center of Yet Another Campaign Flap With AM-Bush vs Dole, Bjt
Feb. 05, 1988
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ George Wittgraf, a mild-mannered lawyer in charge of Vice President George Bush's presidential campaign in Iowa, has become a lightning rod in the increasingly stormy race with Senate Republican leader Bob Dole.
His latest move came when he issued a statement accusing Dole of ''cronyism'' and ''mean-spiritedness,'' in an attack that led to a confrontation between Bush and Dole on the Senate floor in the final week before Monday's precinct caucuses.
Wittgraf, 42, downplays his role, though at times he has drawn more attention than Bush on the campaign trail - quite an accomplishment for someone whose only formal position in Iowa's GOP structure is as chairman of the Cherokee County Republican Party.
At one stop during Bush's most recent swing through Iowa, almost all of the reporters huddled around Wittgraf in the back of the room while vice president spoke at the other end.
''Can we please continue this outside?'' said Peter Teeley, Bush's spokesman.
''As a county chairman he has an obligation to point out the differences between the candidates,'' said Christy Cobb, a press aide for Bush.
And point out the differences Wittgraf has done.
Last summer, he prepared a memorandum for Bush on farm issues, saying Iowa farmers had been ''rolled'' in the 1985 farm bill which Dole played a big role in passing. When that was leaked to the press, it created a flap and led to a disavowal from Bush.
Later in the fall, there were rumors about pending news stories - which never appeared - suggesting Bush had committed adultery. Many Bush aides told reporters privately that Dole's camp was responsible for the rumors but would not speak for attribution.
Wittgraf did talk, and his comments led to a conversation between Bush and Dole in which they agreed to try controlling their staffs a little better.
His latest comments infuriated Dole, who demanded an apology at a news conference at which he brandished a copy of the statement.
''Nothing to apologize for,'' said Wittgraf.
There is no hint that any of Bush's national campaign staff members, or Bush himself, are unhappy.
''George is a pro and we trust his judgment,'' Teeley said. ''We stand by George Wittgraf.''
Bush himself was pressed by reporters to disassociate himself, and refused.
''George told me that he'd gotten a little tired of being slammed by the other campaigns,'' Bush told reporters.
Moments later, Wittgraf jumped in next to Bush in a limousine heading for another campaign stop. There was a broad smile on his face.