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Energizer Lieberman Hits Florida

Politics: The Democrat rails against Bush's policy proposals in a bid to attract the state's Jewish, Cuban and African American voters.


AVENTURA, Fla. — Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman pounded away at policy differences with his Republican rivals Monday as he swept through South Florida in a campaign to energize Jewish, Cuban and African American voters.

Speaking before an adoring crowd of about 1,000 people at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, Lieberman danced through a list of issues in which he said Texas Gov. George W. Bush has fallen short, ranging from his environment and health care records in Texas to his current proposals for prescription drugs, Social Security and tax reform.

"Honestly, Gov. Bush is going to waste all we built up in the last eight years," Lieberman said. "We're not going to let America go back into debt."

Lieberman's counterpart, Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney, was off the campaign trail Monday before a planned trip to Spokane, Wash., and Reno today.

Go to Polls--and Take Friends, Voters Urged

While Lieberman mostly hit at campaign issues Monday, he also spent a lot of time urging people to go to the polls Nov. 7--and to take their friends with them.

The Democrats are mounting an unexpectedly strong showing in Florida--where Bush's brother Jeb is governor--and hope a win here could derail Bush's hopes of gaining enough electoral votes to be elected president.

Lieberman also joined running mate Al Gore's earlier criticisms of a Bush advisor's statement over the weekend that, if elected, Bush would pull American troops out of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in the Balkans. Lieberman said that stance shows Bush has not "learned the lessons" of two World Wars and the Cold War.

"He will truly wound this great alliance, the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,' Lieberman said. "He will hurt the credibility and strength of the United States around the world, and he will raise questions about whether we are going back to an isolationist orientation."

Later, Lieberman turned his attention to U.S. relations with Cuba, a volatile issue in this area filled with emigres virulently opposed to Fidel Castro's regime. Declaring the fight to bring democracy to Cuba an American principle, Lieberman--a fierce supporter of economic sanctions against Castro's government--said he and Gore are committed to "a free and Democratic Cuba."

"As long as the good Lord gives me breath and capacity, I will continue to say when it comes Cuba, 'Cuba libre,' " Lieberman said in an impassioned speech to 75 Cuban American leaders at Miami's Freedom Tower, where many Cuban immigrants were processed when they arrived in the United States.

Lieberman also affirmed his support of the Cuban American National Foundation, a powerful anti-Castro exile group, and visited the grave of his longtime friend Jorge Mas Canosa, the group's founder. Lieberman told the group that Canosa and other Cuban Americans were some of his strongest supporters during his first bid for the Senate in 1988.

During the day, Lieberman toured the muggy outskirts of Miami in a large bus bearing the sign: "Prosperity for All." Joined by state officials and local supporters, including a group of black ministers, his motorcade wove through the worn-out neighborhoods of Brownsville and Liberty City, gliding past run-down strip malls, vacant lots and crumbling stucco homes.

At the Shaker Conch House, a local eatery, Lieberman shook hands, posed for pictures and hugged some of a group of about 30 supporters. He told them that the Democratic nominees are dedicated to "continuing the progress that has occurred in America in the last eight years under Bill Clinton and Al Gore."


Times staff writer Scott Martelle contributed to this story.

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