- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2000

PHILADELPHIA Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush arrived triumphantly yesterday at the Republican National Convention and used a Liberty Bell replica to symbolically ring out the Clinton-Gore era.
It was the same bell the Democratic duo tolled in celebrating their first inaugural eight years ago.
"I'm feeling America is ready for change," Mr. Bush told a Republican fund-raising luncheon. "They don't want four more years of Clinton-Gore."
The Texas governor addressed a Hispanic welcome rally in Spanish at the Philadelphia Art Museum, toured the site where he will deliver his nomination acceptance speech tonight and gushed with praise for his primary rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
"I can't wait to campaign with Senator McCain all across our country together," Mr. Bush said with the man he vanquished in the primary battle at his side. "Together, we will win this election in November."
A new, bipartisan Battleground poll shows Mr. Bush is getting a strong bounce from the convention, moving to a 13-point lead, 49 percent to 36 percent, over Mr. Gore in a head-to-head matchup. That is up from an eight-point lead Tuesday.
Mr. Bush has an 18-point lead, 56 percent to 38 percent, if only the most likely voters are counted.
The poll also shows Vice President Al Gore's unfavorable rating has climbed to 39 percent, compared with 27 percent for Mr. Bush.
Bush advisers said the poll, which shows 48 percent of respondents are less likely to vote for Mr. Gore in the past week, proves that Democratic attack ads against Mr. Bush are backfiring.
"When [Mr. Gore] gets out there and attacks, he's an unattractive figure," said Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political strategist. Calling the Democratic presidential candidate "a flawed messenger," Mr. Rove said, "He simply reminds [voters] of what they've seen too much of."
Said Bush senior adviser Ari Fleischer: "Gore is plunging, and we're not even attacking him."
The poll also contained an interesting finding: Moral values, a favorite topic for Republican candidates, has moved to the top of the issues considered most important by the public.
Mr. Bush arrived at Northeast Philadelphia Airport about 9:15 a.m. yesterday after concluding a five-day tour of six states that the Clinton-Gore ticket won in 1992 and 1996. Mr. Bush leads Mr. Gore this year in polls in all six states Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania with a total of 74 electoral votes. A candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes to capture the presidency.
At a brief airport welcoming ceremony, a fife-and-drum corps greeted Mr. Bush with "Yankee Doodle Dandy." He met Pennsylvania's Republican senators, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, and New Jersey's Republican governor, Christine Todd Whitman.
Then Mr. Bush rang a replica of the Liberty Bell and told the crowd, "If all goes well, you're looking at the next president of the United States."
The Liberty Bell reproduction is the same one that President-elect Clinton and Vice President-elect Gore rang in Arlington on Jan. 17, 1993, during their pre-inaugural festivities, according to a bronze plaque attached to its base.
Late in the afternoon, Mr. Bush toured the convention site on a walk-through to familiarize himself with the stage where he will deliver his acceptance speech. To a near-empty hall, Mr. Bush said from the podium: "My fellow Americans. I accept your nomination."
Bush spokesman Karen Hughes said the speech will give conservatives what they are looking for.
"It's a speech that's based on conservative principles of helping individuals, limited government and local control," Mrs. Hughes told The Washington Times. "I think conservatives will be pleased that he is steadfast in his support for conservative principles. But it's also a speech that talks about how those conservative principles are compassionate."
Asked if the Bush campaign was concerned that his effort to reach swing voters with his speech might alienate some conservatives, Mrs. Hughes replied, "No, because the governor's message is consistent. He says the same thing at an inner-city African-American audience that he says in Los Angeles at a Hispanic audience, that he says in a corporate boardroom."
Mr. Bush was effusive yesterday in his praise for Mr. McCain, the defeated rival who delivered an enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Bush at the convention Tuesday night. Mr. McCain and his wife, Cindy, joined Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, on the stage at the art museum.
Mr. Bush hugged Mr. McCain and told the crowd, "He's a living example of honor, duty and country."
Earlier, aboard his campaign plane, Mr. Bush told reporters he was "particularly grateful" for Mr. McCain's warm speech.
"He gave a very strong statement that touched my heart," Mr. Bush said. "I was truly moved by what he had to say."
Mrs. Hughes, asked if the friction of the primary was finally over, said: "Absolutely. I think [Mr. McCain] went far beyond anything that he had to say, and Governor Bush appreciates that very much."
Mr. Bush said his acceptance speech for tonight is "done, ready to go," and his campaign suggested it may be one of the shorter ones in recent years.
Mrs. Hughes said the speech, based on the most recent trial run, lasts about 38 minutes with breaks for applause.
By comparison, Bob Dole and Mr. Bush's father each took 57 minutes at the 1996 and 1992 conventions. Bill Clinton took 66 and 52 minutes accepting his nominations in those years.
Mr. Bush planned to watch running mate Richard B. Cheney's speech last night from his hotel suite and then turn in.

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