In fact, the 1997 balanced budget agreement contained a significant middle-class tax cut centered on children. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office has calculated that all but the most affluent families now pay a smaller share of their income in federal income taxes than they did when Clinton took office.
Perhaps Bush's most significant misstep was his contention that he had been "outspent" by the Democrat. In fact, through Aug. 30, the Bush campaign had spent $121 million, twice as much as the Gore campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.
On Wednesday, the Bush camp stood by Bush's declaration: "This man has outspent me. The special interests are outspending me."
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said his boss was referring to a recent study showing that Democratic-leaning outside groups had spent $3.6 million on presidential campaign-related advertising--10 times more than Republican-leaning outside groups--from June 1 through Sept. 20.
However, that spending represented only a small fraction of the total spending by the presidential campaigns and the national political parties during the same period.
Campaigning in Warren, Ohio, Gore resumed his courtship of undecided voters Wednesday, telling thousands here that he wants to extend America's prosperity to all, "not just a privileged few."
He stopped at Youngstown State University, where he told a small group of students in the bookstore that his education agenda is more comprehensive than Bush's.
One of Gore's chief campaign strategists said the vice president refrained from responding to Bush's attacks because "we're convinced that swing voters do not want personal attacks." He added: "If we're wrong, we may lose the election."
But Mark D. Fabiani, Gore's communications director, drew a sharp difference between the two candidates. The timing of Gore's post-fire trip to Texas is "a relatively minuscule issue . . . unless you're incapable of talking about the big issues," he said.
"Last night, the governor was incapable of defending his tax plan, of explaining his prescription drug plan," Fabiani said. "We're not surprised the day after the debate that he's talking about the smallest insignificant details while the vice president is talking about the biggest issues facing the country."
Times staff writers Michael Finnegan, Massie Ritsch, Edwin Chen and Megan Garvey contributed to this story.
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Who's Outspending Whom
In Tuesday's presidential debate, Texas Gov. George W. Bush said of Vice President Al Gore: "This man has outspent me. The special interests are outspending me." Here's how the numbers add up:
Total campaign spending (primary and general election) through Aug. 30:
Bush campaign: $121.4 million
Gore campaign: $60.8 million
Presidential advertising spending only, June 1 through Sept. 20:
Bush campaign: $13 million
Gore campaign: $8 million
Republican National Committee: $24.6 million
Democratic National Committee: $27.5 million
Republican-leaning groups: $334,000
Democratic-leaning groups: $3.6 million
Totals for ad spending only:
Bush: $37.9 million
Gore: $39.1 million
Sources: Center for Responsive Politics;
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law