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CAMPAIGN 2000

Gore and Bush Making Final Stands in State

November 01, 2000|JAMES GERSTENZANG and EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Al Gore and George W. Bush made perhaps their final in-person appeals to California voters on Tuesday before setting off to Florida and other more fiercely contested states for the last six days of the presidential campaign.

At an evening street rally in Westwood Village, Gore appeared before thousands of supporters with Cher, actors Martin Sheen and Rob Reiner, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Gov. Gray Davis. The vice president warned that his Republican rival's agenda would "turn the clock back."

"But we are not going to turn the clock back," Gore said. "We are going to lift up our people, and it's going to start right here in the Golden State of California."

He told the crowd, "The message you are giving me: We are going to win California. Book it."

Earlier, in San Jose, Bush returned to his theme of "compassionate conservatism," visiting an inner-city shelter to tout his plan to give public funds to faith-based groups that provide social services.

"I can't think of a better way to end a campaign in an important state than to come to a place that is founded not on politics but on love," Bush said.

Gore struck a more combative note on a morning swing through Portland, Ore., where he called Bush's plan to cut taxes by $1.3 trillion over 10 years "a form of class warfare on behalf of billionaires."

The Democratic nominee's visit to Southern California was driven largely by a trip to the NBC studios in Burbank to appear on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." The Leno stop allowed Gore--with little expense in travel, money or time--to add the get-out-the-vote rally in Westwood to his schedule.

But it also came as the Texas governor insisted that California, with its rich trove of 54 electoral votes, was within his grasp, and despite recent polls giving Gore a 7- to 10-percentage-point lead.

Bush's final campaign stop in California was an unusually somber, yet uplifting, appearance at the CityTeam Ministries shelter in San Jose.

He met with men and women who, thanks to CityTeam, have overcome hardships, including drug and alcohol addictions. In remarks afterward to several hundred people in the shelter's cavernous warehouse, he made a rare reference to his own decision to give up alcohol.

"I quit drinking in 1986, and haven't had a drop since then," he said. "It wasn't because of a government program, by the way, in my particular case. [It was] because I heard a higher call."

As he promoted private charitable efforts, Bush took pains to emphasize that, if elected president, he would make it easier for faith-based organizations to carry out their mission.

"The government can hand out money, no question, and we will in a Bush administration--but in a responsible way," he said. "What the government cannot do is to put hope in people's hearts and a sense of purpose in people's lives and make people love one another."

Bush said he believes in the separation of church and state, but added: "So long as there is a secular alternative available, we need to encourage faith-based programs to be an integral part of the delivery of help to people who need help."

If Bush felt the strain of a long election campaign that remains too close to call, he did not show signs of it. In a game room at the shelter, he told two Ping-Pong players: "I got a heck of a forehand."

"Let's see," someone in the crowd said.

"Not that good," Bush replied with a smile.

On a more serious note, Dominador Linosnero, 31, once a gang member and drug addict, began sobbing as he struggled to tell his story.

"The Lord opened the door for me here," he said.

Bush put his hand on the man's shoulder and said: "That's about as powerful a statement as you can get. That's why I'm here. I believe programs such as these are the bread of life."

Bush also campaigned Tuesday in Portland and Seattle--in two states that traditionally lean Democrat but are closely contested this year as Green Party nominee Ralph Nader has chipped at Gore's base of support.

Today, Bush plans to promote his tax cut proposal in Minnesota and Iowa. But Gore, who was to take a red-eye flight Tuesday night to Florida, savaged that tax proposal while campaigning in Oregon.

"He favors tax relief for those who make $20 million a year. I don't," Gore said. "I want tax relief for working people and middle-class families."

Gore said Bush's "first priority--and for that matter, his second, third and fourth priority--is that massive tax cut for the wealthy," Gore said.

Accusing the Republicans of having "fuzzy memories," he said the nation faced economic havoc when it last accepted such tax cuts in the 1980s.

"We've been there, done that--still paying the bills," he said. "I will not let us be dragged back into a cycle of big tax giveaways to the wealthy, big deficits, big debt and repeat recessions."

The differences between the candidates, he said, are not about personalities.

"My opponent likes to criticize my tax cuts for being targeted," Gore said, raising one of the favorite arguments that Bush has made on the campaign trail.

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