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As Nominees Stump, Camps Talk Up Role of Grass-Roots Support


GRAND CHUTE, Wis. — With just 10 days left until election day, George W. Bush underscored his rival's Washington ties and penchant for exaggeration, while Al Gore portrayed Bush as a friend of the health care industry, not ordinary Americans.

As the two presidential candidates took jabs at each other from a distance, albeit more gently than earlier in the week, the shape of the election's final days became a little clearer. Their campaigns dribbled out information about itineraries, and Gore's staff announced an advertising push.

Campaigning Saturday in central Wisconsin, Bush called the vice president a "formidable opponent," described Washington as a place of "bitterness and acrimony" and painted the Democrat as an integral part of the federal bureaucratic maze.

"He's got the president getting ready to campaign for him," taunted the Texas governor, wrapped in a heavy winter coat, running mate Dick Cheney by his side. "He's the incumbent."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday November 10, 2000 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Election facts--An Oct. 29 map switched the number of electoral votes for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Maryland has 10 and the district has three. A graphic on Sunday incorrectly stated that William Henry Harrison won the 1888 election. Benjamin Harrison was the winner.

Striding onstage at Fox Cities Stadium, home to the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Bush flashed "W" signs at more than 5,000 supporters who braved the early autumn cold to hear and cheer.

Gore, said the Republican nominee, "is so confident about his abilities, he claimed he invented the Internet. But if he was so smart, how come all the Internet addresses start with," and he paused, "W! Not only one W, but three Ws!"

Drawing Attention to Health Care Issue

The vice president campaigned in Pennsylvania--the second day in a row that he'd stumped there and a reflection of the state's critical importance. At Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, he drew attention to his differences with Bush concerning health care.

"The reason the HMOs and insurance companies and drug companies are supporting my opponent--and pouring millions of dollars into an effort to bend the choice in this election to their will and not yours--is because they know where I stand," Gore said.

"They know that for 24 years I have fought for the interests of middle-class families and working men and women," he continued. "They know I know where the rats in the barn are."

Gore singled out Republican support last week for legislation in Congress that would provide $34 billion to health maintenance organizations taking part in Medicare.

The legislation was intended to assist such providers as home health care programs and nursing homes that participate in Medicare, which helps pay for the health care of 39 million elderly and disabled Americans. But "it doesn't have a dime's worth of patient protections," Gore charged.

First-Stringer Wants in the Game

As the last days of the campaign took shape, one high-powered Democratic surrogate said he thought he could help Gore if only he was allowed.

The Gore campaign has kept President Clinton on the sidelines for much of the election cycle. The charismatic Clinton always threatens to overshadow his second in command, and his impeachment has alienated many swing voters. On Saturday, Clinton downplayed the rift while defending his ability to move the electorate.

"The most important actors in this drama are Al Gore and Gov. Bush," Clinton told reporters at a White House news conference, according to Associated Press. "They're the only actors in the drama who really have any sway . . . [but] the rest of us might be able to sway some undecided voters if our arguments are heard."

The vice president's political aides on Saturday outlined a $15-million television advertising plan directed at as many as 22 states and funded by the Gore campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

"We expect the paid media presence will put us in position to have a major impact on voters in all the critical battlegrounds," senior Gore advisor Tad Devine said.

Devine said the advertising highlights Bush's record in Texas while amplifying doubts he says campaign focus groups are finding about whether Bush is up to the job of president.

Devine claimed that, among the states in play, Gore leads in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington and Oregon. And he said polls show Gore has made strides in Ohio.

Michael Whouley, the DNC's senior political official, said as many as 40,000 volunteers would be pushing Gore's campaign in the battleground states and that some potential voters would be contacted at least 10 times before the election.

"We will have organizational superiority," he said. "King George had fancier uniforms and better armaments during the [American] Revolution, but the revolutionaries won."

In a race as tight as campaign 2000, energizing their core constituencies is key for both candidates.

Bush said he "takes nothing for granted" in traditionally Democratic Wisconsin, where one recent poll showed him trailing by 7 percentage points. Campaigning later in Columbia, Mo., he declared it "a swing state; I can't win it alone."

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