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Bush Criticizes Gore, Plans New Ad

Campaign: GOP nominee calls rival divisive and a friend of big government. He also vows aid to tribes.


MESILLA, N.M. — Texas Gov. George W. Bush attacked Vice President Al Gore on Saturday as a divisive leader and friend of "big government."

Bush leveled the criticism at a rally in Dallas, where he was joined by Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney, then flew to New Mexico to promise $900 million to repair Native American schools.

Bush also announced that he is launching his first television advertising of the fall campaign Monday. The ads will air in 21 states, even in traditionally Democratic ones like West Virginia.

All in all, a busy day for the Texas governor's campaign--exactly the notion Bush officials wanted to convey.

"There's work to be done. There's a lot of work to be done," Bush said. "That's why we need a new tone in Washington."

Even as Bush bemoaned what he called the divisive style of Gore--who has said he represents the people, not the powerful--Bush said of the Democratic ticket: "They stand on the side of big government. We stand on the side of the American people."

Bush's first stop of the day was a rally in Dallas at Southern Methodist University--alma mater of his wife, Laura--that attracted more than 9,000 people.

Sens. Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison, House Majority Leader Dick Armey and others--Texans all--whipped up the crowd. When Bush and Cheney arrived, Cheney said the cheers were even longer and louder than at the recent Republican convention in Philadelphia.

Next, Bush flew to New Mexico, a state that voted for Bill Clinton twice. Bush met in Las Cruces with several tribal leaders, pledging $802 million to pay for repairs long overdue at 185 schools for Native American children run by the federal government, including two in California.

He added to that proposal $126 million to replace six aging school buildings in New Mexico, Arizona and Washington.

New Mexico is a closely contested state and nowhere more so than the congressional district around Las Cruces, which Clinton won by a bare 1% of the vote in 1992 and 1996. One of the factors that helped Clinton in 1996 was high turnout among Native Americans.

Bush then journeyed to a rally in Mesilla, a former trading outpost just west of Las Cruces. In 90-degree heat, about 3,000 people gathered in the town square, surrounded by pueblo buildings from the 1800s.

Bush thundered again that he and Cheney represent bipartisan leadership.

"The politics in Washington are too ugly. People are pointing fingers, passing blame, and that's not right for this great land," he said.

Bush officials said the television campaign includes two ads--one new and another that ran previously in a few states. They said the TV ads will appear in the Northwest, the Midwest and competitive states in the South, such as North Carolina, but not in California. One spot portrays Bush as a leader. The new ad touts Bush's education plans, such as reforming Head Start and making schools more accountable for their students' performance.

Bush, who had consistently led Gore in the polls, announced his ad campaign as new polls show Gore ahead or narrowing the gap. Gore's ad campaign is expected to tout his biography.

Saturday's campaigning also featured a back-and-forth with the Gore camp that had all the drama of a playground fight.

Bush officials, hoping to show that the GOP nominee is working hard, produced statistics to prove he campaigned more after his party's convention than Gore will campaign after the Democratic convention that ended last week in Los Angeles.

After the Republican convention, Bush took a five-day swing by train through five states with 138 electoral votes, making 23 campaign stops, said Scott McClellan, a Bush spokesman. That was more than Gore plans in the next few days, he said.

But Gore officials countered that the vice president, now on a boat on the Mississippi River, will campaign seven days straight, hitting six states with 86 electoral votes and making 26 campaign stops.

The two sides then argued over how to define stops, including whether to count the times Bush's train or Gore's boat merely slowed down when passing a community.

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