- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2000

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, both enjoying big leads going into Super Tuesday, traded barbs yesterday on campaign finance and health care as they looked toward the November election.
Mr. Gore continued to criticize Mr. Bush for ads running in some key primary states, paid for by two Texas billionaires.
"The man must have amnesia when he's talking about campaign funding reform. He must have forgotten that he went to a Buddhist temple, raising money from people who made a vow of poverty," said Mr. Bush, campaigning in California.
With a smile, he added: "I was somewhat pleased that the vice president took time out of his busy schedule to talk about my candidacy."
Mr. Gore, campaigning in New York, criticized Mr. Bush's record on health care as governor.
"Under his leadership, the state of Texas now ranks 49th in health insurance for children. And health insurance for women? Fiftieth. Fifty out of 50." Aides said his statistics came from a study done by Families USA, which is closely aligned with Democrats. The group, however, said it did not rank the states.
The group told The Washington Times that Texas is expanding its coverage of children under a new law still being implemented. Currently, Texas provides health coverage under the Medicaid program for children at the federal poverty line children in a family of four with an income of $17,050 a year. The new law expands the coverage to children in a family making $34,100 or less.
For several years, Mr. Gore's state, Tennessee, has provided health care coverage to children in a family of four with an income of $34,100 a year. In some cases, it also provides coverage for children in families making as much as $68,200, provided there is no employer coverage.
The two front-runners also spent the day courting Jewish voters as they tailored their message to the general election.
"Tolerance can never be assumed, and it always must be taught," Mr. Bush said in an appearance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles where he also stressed his support for "a safe and secure Israel."
Mr. Gore told the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in New York City he would be a "good and helpful and loyal friend" to Israel if elected to the White House.
Mr. Bush began his day in San Diego, where he criticized Mr. Gore over education. Mr. Gore wants to build more schools, Mr. Bush said, while he wants greater accountability in the classroom.
"We'll listen to Al Gore talk about buildings, bricks and mortar, and this campaign, we'll talk about saving people's lives," he said.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain campaigned in California as polls showed he trails by more than 20 percentage points among state Republicans, who will determine who wins the 162 delegates available today.
"One thing we know is that the unpredictable will happen," Mr. McCain told reporters as he landed in Los Angeles for a final day of campaigning. "The only thing that has been certain so far in this primary season is that the predictions haven't borne out… . I guarantee you we'll have an exciting day."
Mr. McCain is hoping that his recent attacks on the negative ads by supporters of Mr. Bush will re-energize his campaign after a series of defeats in Virginia, Washington and North Dakota last week. The ads, running in New York, Ohio and California, attack Mr. McCain's environmental record.
"We will not allow people to spend millions of dollars of dirty money to run negative ads and destroy a political campaign," Mr. McCain told students at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley.
Mr. McCain's campaign has been struggling to overcome the fallout from his attacks last week on religious leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, attacks that apparently hurt him in last week's primaries. The campaign believes it lost valuable time defending the comments last week and they have been hoping that the environmental ads would help change the subject.
Former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, Mr. Gore's opponent, spent yesterday campaigning in New York as polls showed he trails in all 15 Democratic primary states.
Sounding as if he is ready for defeat, Mr. Bradley promised to support the vice president if he wins the nomination. Although his campaign appeared doomed, the liberal sage took comfort in having nudged Mr. Gore to the left on a variety of issues, including gun control, health care and campaign finance reform.
"We've pushed him on a whole number of areas," Mr. Bradley said. "And I think that the Democratic Party has moved in the direction that I've pushed it over the last year.
"I'm pleased about that," he said. "But, of course, having the party move in the direction is not the same as leading the party as the candidate and the president of the United States."

Dave Boyer and Sean Scully reported from California; Bill Sammon from New York.

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