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Gore Tries to Score Points With Michigan Voters

Politics: The Democrat hammers away at his rival's record, saying voters face a clear choice. Polls show Bush still leads nationally.


DETROIT — Fighting to keep his narrow lead in this key battleground state, Vice President Al Gore on Saturday attacked George W. Bush's record in Texas while promoting his own agenda, telling supporters that America faces a clear and stark choice on Nov. 7.

While his Republican opponent spent the day in Texas to prepare for the third and final presidential debate Tuesday, Gore also received mixed news in the polls, which showed Bush still ahead nationally but with Gore holding on to some key states.

Addressing about 4,000 supporters at an outdoor rally here, Gore devoted a big chunk of his remarks to health care--a major concern for organized labor, especially the United Auto Workers, long a champion of universal health insurance coverage.

Besides touting his campaign promise to provide all children with medical insurance by the end of his first term, Gore hammered away at Bush's record on health care as governor of Texas.

The vice president specifically questioned Bush's assertion during Wednesday night's debate that the rate of uninsured has been going down in Texas but up nationally.

Gore cited a study released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found the opposite of Bush's claim. It found that Medicaid enrollment in Texas decreased by 7.6% from mid-1997 to the end of 1999, while the number of uninsured Americans nationally dropped slightly.

Somewhat playfully, Gore then called Bush's assertion "fuzzy math"--the same phrase Bush had used during their first debate to characterize some of Gore's attacks on his agenda.

The vice president presented this election as a choice between two sets of priorities.

As Gore put it, Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, would spend "more money on a tax cut for the wealthiest 1% [of taxpayers] than all of the new spending they are proposing for health care, education and national defense--all put together."

He added:

"It's not a question of my opponent's heart or my heart. It's a question of priorities."

Gore Assails Bush on Hate Crime Issue

Later in the day, Gore criticized Bush for having suggested during Wednesday's debate that he, like the vice president, supports legislation to punish perpetrators of hate crimes.

In a telephone conference call to African American supporters around the country in a get-out-the-vote drive, Gore noted that relatives of James Byrd Jr. had "pleaded" with Bush to support passage of such a bill, to no avail, after Byrd, an African American, was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.

Gore said the answer that Bush gave at the Winston-Salem, N.C., debate was "misleading at best."

In a second conference call, to Latino leaders around the country, Gore vowed to "exceed" President Clinton's record of diversity in top appointments in his administration.

The vice president also lambasted the public comments of a top Bush administration official who denigrated the importance of visiting the teeming colonias along the U.S.-Mexico border--something that Gore's running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, did Friday.

Bush has visited the colonias three times in his six years as governor, a record some Latino leaders have portrayed as inconsistent for a self-proclaimed compassionate conservative. But Texas Secretary of State Elton Bomer defended the governor Friday, saying: "You don't have to go to Alaska to know it's cold, and I don't think you have to go to colonias to know what it's like."

Citing those comments, Gore said: "Well, that is a cold comment in itself. It speaks volumes about the priorities in Texas in the Bush administration."

As Gore campaigned here, he was greeted by a large headline in Saturday's Detroit Free Press, which reported that its new poll showed Bush had narrowed Gore's lead, 45% to 42%, in Michigan. Two weeks ago, Gore had a 6-percentage-point lead; in mid-September, he had led by 8 points in the state.

Michigan Key State on Election Day

There is little doubt in either the Gore or Bush camp that Michigan and its 18 electoral votes will prove to be vital on election day. Bush campaigned in Michigan on Thursday and Friday, drawing enthusiastic crowds.

The poll published today showed Bush leading among independent voters, 39% to 23%.

"This race is close," Gore acknowledged here Saturday. "It's close here. It's close nationwide."

Three national polls released Saturday showed Bush extending his slim lead over Gore, a rise pollsters attributed to the perception that Bush performed well in his debate with Gore on Wednesday.

The USA Today/CNN poll released Saturday showed Bush leading Gore 48% to 44%. CNN/Time had Bush ahead 48% to Gore's 43%, while the Reuters/MSNBC poll put Bush at 44% and Gore at 41%.

Green Party nominee Ralph Nader, as he has in past polls, continues to draw around 4% nationally, with Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan languishing around 1%.

On Friday evening, Nader held a star-studded fund-raiser at Madison Square Garden in New York, where about 13,500 supporters heard Nader criticize his exclusion from the presidential debates.

Associated Press reported that attendees, largely young people, paid $20 each for the event, billed as "Nader Rocks the Garden." Among the celebrities endorsing Nader were actors Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, and Bill Murray and musicians Eddie Vedder and Patti Smith.

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