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Gore Striving to Deliver Neck-and-Neck Tennessee

November 05, 1996|ELIZABETH SHOGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NASHVILLE — Fatigued but feisty, Vice President Al Gore returned Monday to Tennessee in a rear-guard effort to deliver his home state for the Clinton-Gore ticket.

The Democratic ticket could easily win reelection even if it loses Tennessee--a state that Republicans romped through in the 1994 midterm elections. But losing here would be a deep embarrassment to Gore, who already has his eyes on succeeding Clinton four years from now.

So, on his 16th visit to the state during this campaign, Gore bounced across the state, stopping in Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis--all in time for the evening newscasts.

The race is too close to call in the state and Gore has a personal stake in victory here.

"Today I feel pretty animated, because the stakes are very high for Tennessee and our country," Gore told a supportive crowd of several hundred at the historic Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville.

Although his voice was scratchy from a week of marathon campaigning, Gore gave rousing speeches at airport tarmac rallies in the GOP stronghold of Knoxville and the increasingly Republican city of Chattanooga, as well as in Democratic-friendly Memphis.

But the main event was the one closest to Gore's home turf in middle Tennessee.

"The key will be turnout," he told the crowd in the auditorium, the theater that was the original home of country music's Grand Ole Opry. "You can make the difference. I need your help."

"How important is it for our state to have someone in the White House constantly listening to what is important to Tennessee?" Gore asked the crowd. "The choice is up to you."

Gore was introduced by his wife, Tipper, who urged the voters, particularly women, to vote and encourage a friend or neighbor to do the same.

"It's a precious right," Tipper Gore said. "Each and every one of us must exercise it."

Gore planned to spend Monday night at his home in Carthage, Tenn., to vote this morning and then go to Little Rock, Ark., to meet Clinton and watch the returns.

Gore started his day with an early-morning rally in Racine, Wis., and then headed to Cleveland for a joint midday rally with Clinton and both of their wives.

As the warmup act that surprised even Clinton with its fervor, Gore urged the audience to fight complacency and go to the polls.

"I want you to go out in large numbers and support these candidates," he said. With a strong turnout, he added, "we'll take back the Congress of the United States."

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