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CAMPAIGN 2000

Gore Stays on Trail; Bush's Day Low-Key

October 30, 2000|JAMES GERSTENZANG and MARIA L. LA GANGA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

DETROIT — With time unforgivingly short before election day, Al Gore careened through Michigan on Sunday, issuing stark warnings about the stakes attendant to election day.

He excoriated George W. Bush's economic plans on a day when the Republican nominee spent most of his time in Austin, Texas, out of the public eye. And Gore distanced himself from President Clinton, even as Clinton and other Democrats spread out to fan support for him.

Privately, the vice president sought to allay worries among this state's significant Arab American population that his support for Israel would deafen him to their views on the Mideast and matters at home. Publicly, he swayed in the embrace of African American churchgoers and rewarded them with a speech laden with biblical cadences and political bluntness.

"You have a chance," Gore told the congregation at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church. Election day "is the one day every four years when the wealthy and powerful and special interests tremble at the thought that you will penetrate the smoke screen and see for yourselves exactly what is at stake."

While Gore was revving up his populist rhetoric, Bush spent the day in a largely low-key fashion, campaigning only via a satellite transmission to Latino supporters in Anaheim Hills, Calif.

"You're looking at one candidate who has never lost sight of the importance of California," Bush said. He vowed that he would win the state's 54 electoral votes, adding that "while my opponent has been busy counting the votes of California, we've been working hard to earn them."

Bush could not have found much solace, however, in a new San Francisco Examiner poll that gave Gore a 10-point lead in California. Last week, a Los Angeles Times poll gave Gore a 7-point lead in the state.

Both men are due to campaign in California this week for the first time since September, with Bush appearing Monday in Burbank and Fresno and Tuesday in the Silicon Valley. Gore will hold a Halloween evening rally in Westwood.

As the presidential campaign opened its last full week, it continued to be the tightest such contest in at least two decades, and perhaps since the 1960 contest between another vice president, Richard Nixon, and Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. National polls released over the weekend showed the race as either a dead heat or Bush with a minor lead. Some polls in crucial states, however, suggested an edge for Gore in the all-important effort to collect 270 electoral votes.

With the polls stubbornly close and the time to change them evaporating, the candidates and their parties were strongly working their get-out-the-vote efforts. Their campaign teams belted out their points of view on the Sunday talk shows and prepared to send a last blizzard of mail to the doorsteps of American voters, particularly those in crucial areas.

Clinton Talks of 'Clear, Stark Choice'

For the Democrats, the campaigner-in-chief, President Clinton, was an integral part of the mix. Echoing Gore's Michigan efforts to spur African American voters to the polls, Clinton told congregants at the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., on Sunday to make sure that "nobody takes a pass on Nov. 7."

"When I hear people say this is not really a very significant election, it makes me want to go head first into an empty swimming pool," Clinton told church members. "We really do have a big, clear, unambiguous, stark choice here. We don't have to get mad, but we need to be smart."

If Clinton's effort was singular--to get out the vote among core Democrats who still overwhelmingly back him--Gore's remained manifold. He was pleading not only for the loyal Democrats but for the swing voters who gave life to the term "Reagan Democrats" 20 years ago, and to those who this year have cast aside both major parties to side with Green Party nominee Ralph Nader.

In Michigan on Sunday, Gore borrowed from the presidential campaign of 1988, when the last vice president to seek a promotion was running. That year, the second-in-command and ultimate winner was George Bush, father of the current Republican nominee.

"There will be change," he told members of the Greater Grace Temple, then swiped from Bush's convention acceptance speech: "If you are changing horses in the middle of the stream, at least get on the one going in the right direction."

Earlier, at the Hartford Memorial church, he drew an unspoken contrast with Clinton's scandalous personal behavior. Gore said that nine times in his public life, beginning with his entry into the Army during the Vietnam War, he had taken an oath to defend the Constitution.

"I have never violated that," he said.

There too he scored Bush's tax cut proposal as a return to trickle-down economics, "that disproved, discredited, failed theory."

"We have tried that way before," Gore said. "It doesn't work that way."

Even more critical of Bush was Gore's running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.

Lieberman Focuses on Bush's Readiness

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