- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

Vice President Al Gore yesterday visited the University of Maryland to promote a college tuition tax break he said would save families $2,800 annually.
The trip capped Mr. Gore's post-convention tour to shore up his support in six states that supported President Clinton in 1996: Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Florida and Maryland.
The tour appears to be paying off. Four polls released yesterday showed Mr. Gore taking slight leads in Minnesota and Michigan and solidifying leads in New Jersey and California. Together, the four states have 97 electoral votes.
"What we're doing is making sure that we reach out across the country, across all these [traditionally Democratic] states because there's been so much change taking place," in education levels, income levels and other demographics, Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile said yesterday at the College Park campus.
"Our strategy has always been that we don't leave any state in the background, but bring them all into the battleground."
Throughout his post-convention tour, Mr. Gore has repeated themes from his speech in Los Angeles, declaring he is now his "own man," and that he would "fight for working families."
Dan Bartlett, a spokesman for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, said the Republican nominee unified his party before its convention.
He said that while Mr. Gore shores up historically Democratic states, Mr. Bush can court states that President Clinton carried twice, such as Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and others.
"We've said all along that the polls would tighten and this would be a close race," Mr. Bartlett said.
Mr. Gore outlined his college tuition plan in front of 1,000 students and union activists sitting in a sweltering outdoor amphitheater. Mr. Gore's proposal would allow families to claim either a credit or a tax deduction of 28 percent on up to $10,000 in tuition.
Mr. Gore's plan includes accounts similar to 401(k) retirement plans in which workers and employers could contribute tax-free funds for education.
"All of our hard-working young people deserve to open the door to their dream," Mr. Gore said.
Gore aides said most Americans would be eligible for the maximum tax credit of $2,800. But the Bush campaign said in-state students pay $5,136 annual tuition at Maryland and they would get $1,438 per year under Mr. Gore's plan.
"Al Gore's plan is so thin and targeted that he's got to exaggerate it to make his point," Mr. Bartlett said.
Mr. Bush also pushed education yesterday in an appearance at Dillard University in New Orleans.
The Texas governor proposed $437 million over five years to help historically black colleges and $166 million over five years to aid schools with Hispanic enrollments of at least 25 percent.
In Michigan, Mr. Gore now leads Mr. Bush 44 percent to 42 percent, according to a poll conducted for the Detroit Free Press. Mr. Bush led 45-37 in the paper's previous poll.
"For the first time in almost two years, we see Al Gore cutting the umbilical cord with Bill Clinton," said Lansing pollster Ed Sarpolus. Ralph Nader drew 3 percent and Pat Buchanan 1 percent in the Michigan poll.
In Minnesota, the vice president led with 48 percent to 40 percent for Mr. Bush, 3 percent for Mr. Nader and 1 percent for Mr. Buchanan in a poll conducted for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, KARE-TV and Minnesota Public Radio. Mr. Bush led 43 percent to 40 percent in a similar poll last month.
In California, the Field Poll found likely voters favoring Mr. Gore over Mr. Bush by 50 percent to 37 percent, similar to the 46-35 lead Mr. Gore held in June. Mr. Nader drew 4 percent in the California poll. Mr. Buchanan and others got 2 percent combined.
In New Jersey, Mr. Gore led with 49 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Mr. Bush, 4 percent for Mr. Nader and 1 percent for Mr. Buchanan, according to a Quinnipiac College survey. Mr. Gore led by five points in the same poll in July.
Mr. Gore's education tax credit played well with the students in Maryland, who applauded the vice president enthusiastically.
"As a grad student accumulating a lot of debt, I am very interested in his proposal," said Alicia Benn of Montgomery County, who is in a psychology doctorate program.
"I think that is going to appeal very strongly to most young Americans," added Prairie Summer, a Canton, N.Y., senior who is studying communications at American University in Washington.
"The tuition prices have gone extremely high," she said. "We all feel that higher education is an extremely crucial part of getting a step up in the job market today."
Not everyone was thrilled with Mr. Gore.
Alison Gibbons, a sociology graduate student and state co-chairman of the Maryland Green Party, attended the rally in a chicken outfit to convey that Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush are too "chicken" to debate Mr. Nader.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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