- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

BLUE ASH, Ohio Texas Gov. George W. Bush, addressing yet another large crowd yesterday on the eve of the Republican National Convention, said Republican gains in Ohio and other states on his tour are giving him the momentum to win back the White House.
"We're on our way to Philadelphia, and we're on our way to victory," Mr. Bush told a crowd of more than 2,000 rain-drenched supporters at a baseball field as loudspeakers broadcast the soundtrack from the baseball movie "The Natural," and fireworks heralded his arrival.
Mr. Bush, who is leading Vice President Al Gore by nine points in the latest Ohio poll, said he will reverse Democratic victories here in 1992 and 1996 with his message of tax cuts, increased military spending and Social Security reform.
"The surplus means the government has too much money," Mr. Bush said to roars of approval. "My opponent believes the surplus belongs to the government."
The six-state campaign swing, which began Friday in Arkansas and concludes Wednesday with Mr. Bush's arrival at the convention, is drawing big crowds, despite rain at several events. A new poll yesterday shows Mr. Bush leading Mr. Gore nationwide by 11 points. The poll figures and the crowds have campaign aides expressing caution; they don't want to peak too early.
"We're delighted with the crowds," said Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes. "The governor's message is resonating. It's a great feeling, but it's a nervous feeling. The election is not tomorrow."
Yesterday's rally was marred by the death of a 73-year-old Cincinnati woman who collapsed in the crowd shortly before Mr. Bush arrived. When Mr. Bush mounted the stage with his entourage, Ohio Gov. Robert Taft apologized for the delay and asked the crowd to join him in a moment of silence for the woman.
The campaign rally yesterday contained some of the strongest rhetoric yet by Bush supporters on this tour.
Referring to the rain, local radio personality Bill Cunningham told the crowd from the stage yesterday, "After eight years of Clinton-Gore, America needs a bath and we're getting one." He urged the audience to "elect a governor from the West to scour out the White House of the filth and degradation."
Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican and one of the House managers for President Clinton's impeachment trial, told the audience, "We want prosperity without perjury."
"Who would have thought that you'd see Microsoft split up and the Clintons still together?" Mr. Chabot said on stage. He added that this election should be important to pro-life voters.
"If we want to get rid of the most despicable, most disgusting practice on the face of the earth partial-birth abortion we need to elect George W. Bush," Mr. Chabot said.
In an interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Chabot said Ohio has become "Bush country."
"People are so tired of the disgrace that this administration has brought on the White House, they want to clean house," he said. "And George W. Bush is the person to do it."
As for economic issues, Mr. Chabot said, "keeping the economy going and cutting taxes those are going to be the giant issues this year."
Rep. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, and Howard County Republican chairman Joe Deters reminded the audience that no Republican candidate has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.
"So goes Ohio, so goes the country," Mr. Portman said. "Let's do it for George Bush."
As he has in several of his previous campaign stops, Mr. Bush tried to head off Democratic criticism that his plans to reform Social Security are too risky.
He pledged to seniors in the audience that his administration would keep its promise to them. Then, addressing younger workers, he said, "You'd better be worried about when the baby boomers start retiring."
Concerned about projections that the retirement system will run out of money in about 35 years, Mr. Bush has proposed allowing workers to invest 2 percent of their payroll tax in the stock market to gain larger returns on their retirement funds. Several younger people interviewed on this campaign swing say they like Mr. Bush's idea.
"I'd much rather they try something," said Tiffany Neidhardt, 26, of Covington, Ky., at a Bush rally. "It [the Social Security fund] is dying."
Said her friend, financial analyst Jay Lescoe, 27, "The 20-ish age group is much more into this election now. It's exciting. It's a pivotal election."
The Republican candidate held a 14-point lead over Mr. Gore in a Kentucky poll conducted in mid-June; Kentucky voted for the Clinton-Gore ticket in each of the last two presidential cycles.
Mr. Bush will continue his tour of battleground states today in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, and will address the convention tonight via satellite. The campaign moves to West Virginia and Pennsylvania tomorrow.
Mr. Bush held a nine-point lead in the most recent poll in West Virginia and also has been leading Mr. Gore in Pennsylvania, both states that have been in the Democratic column as well.

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