Tags: Gore's | Gains | Force | Bush | Back | Florida

Gore's Gains Force Bush Back to Florida

Wednesday, 01 November 2000 12:00 AM

"We would have hoped to be in a better position at this point," said one Bush campaign aide, acknowledging Bush had planned to concentrate the final week of campaign efforts on Midwest toss-up states until recent days.

The aide said Bush would spend a full day in Florida sometime in the coming days, but refused to say when. Roughly a week ago, when Bush last left Florida, the plan was to bring in the governor for a final one-stop rally, perhaps in Daytona Beach or Tampa on the last leg of the race.

Bush and his closest aides have been trying to downplay Gore's gains in the fourth-largest state. Wednesday, Bush rejected the findings of an MSNBC-Zogby Florida poll giving Gore a 51 percent to 40 percent advantage.

"I don't believe it," Bush said when asked about the Zogby poll as he toured a fish market in Seattle, where he began a day of campaigning that continued in Minnesota and Iowa. He called the tracking poll "totally out of kilter."

The poll had Green Party candidate Ralph Nader at 4 percent, and 4 percent were undecided.

The Los Angeles Times published a Florida poll Tuesday that gave Gore a 4 percent edge at 48-44 with a five-point margin of error.

Of the three other most-recent public opinion polls, two slightly favor the Democrat candidate and one gives Bush the edge.

The polls indicating Gore's gains in Florida come at a crucial time for plotting strategy in the handful of states up for grabs with only days left in the closest White House race in decades. "We've known since spring that Florida was going to be more competitive than many observers thought," said Tucker Eskew, a spokesman for the Bush campaign.

Mark McKinnon, Bush's media strategist, said the poll was misleading because it called voters only during the day, when mostly elders would be at home but not working voters with regular jobs. He pointed to the Mason-Dixon poll that shows Bush up by two percentage points.

But the governor's strong reaction to the poll, the reworked schedule and aggressive efforts by campaign aides to debunk the poll with reporters reflect some concern about Bush's standing in Florida, where his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, has failed to hand him the crucial 25 electoral votes despite heading a massive GOP grass-roots network.

At the Seattle fish market, Bush's last appearance in the West before Election Day, the governor took time to pay homage to a local talisman, an oversized bronze piggy bank named Rachael.

"For good luck," Bush said as he rubbed the waist-high pig and dropped a coin in its slot.

Meanwhile, Gore campaigned in Florida, giving a speech on Social Security in Kissimmee before flying to Tampa for a downtown rally. The Gore campaign has deluged voters in key states with advertisements raising concern about Bush's Social Security plans. Gore strategists believe that message will resonate most strongly in Florida, with its huge crop of retiree voters.

Making his eighth visit to Florida Wednesday since the political conventions, Gore extended his criticism of Bush's Social Security plan, arguing that it is not only the elderly who should be concerned, but the middle-aged workers who would be ready to retire in 15 to 20 years.

"Today's middle-aged workers are the heart of our workforce and the heart of family life in America," Gore said during a speech at the Kissimmee Civic Center, "and they shouldn't have to worry whether Social Security will be there for them when they retire."

The vice president Wednesday expressed confidence on his chances in Florida. Speaking to MKMG-TV, an Orlando CBS affiliate, Gore said, "I feel very good about [the election], especially what's happening here in Florida. In many ways Florida is the key to this race. And ... the response here in Florida is so enthusiastic, the momentum is clearly growing, that I feel awfully good about what's going to happen on Tuesday."

Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said the vice president's message on Social Security – that Bush's plan for partial voluntary privatization of benefits will endanger the long-term viability of the trust fund – was resonating with elders and other key voters.

"Gov. Bush is hemorrhaging on Social Security," Lehane told UPI. "Seniors really pay attention to this issue ... they understand that you can't spend the same bucket of money twice," which is Gore's fundamental allegation about the Bush plan – that it promises the same money to two different groups of people.

Lehane said Gore had "small but not insignificant leads in all the battleground states," and this smaller playing field plays directly into Gore's strategy. "We knew all along that they would outspend us, so we had to pick our battlegrounds."

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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We would have hoped to be in a better position at this point, said one Bush campaign aide, acknowledging Bush had planned to concentrate the final week of campaign efforts on Midwest toss-up states until recent days. The aide said Bush would spend a full day in...
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Wednesday, 01 November 2000 12:00 AM
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