- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2000

George W. Bush continued to lead Vice President Al Gore in the race for the presidency and was running slightly ahead in two of the biggest electoral states Pennsylvania and Illinois.
Other state polls last month also showed Mr. Bush inching ahead of Mr. Gore in Oregon and Washington, two Democratic-leaning states where Mr. Gore had led his Republican rival but has since fallen behind.
His lead may grow even larger next week after Sen. John McCain endorses Mr. Bush. The Arizona Republican who lost the primary race to the Texas governor said yesterday he will endorse Mr. Bush after the two meet even if they don't agree on campaign finance reform.
That news may aid Mr. Bush in California, the nation's biggest state with 54 electoral votes at stake. Mr. Gore has led Mr. Bush in the state but more recent polls showed that his lead has shrunk to five or six points, indicating that Mr. Bush's focus on Latino voters may be paying off for him. Some independent and Republican polls showed Mr. Bush ahead by one or two points among all likely voters.
A state-by-state survey of voter polls around the country showed that Mr. Bush appeared to be maintaining his national lead over Mr. Gore which the Gallup Poll put at nine points in mid-April. Moreover, Mr. Bush was running ahead of the vice president in some pivotal states in the Northeast, the Midwest and in the Pacific Northwest.
A compilation by Hotline, the political Internet news service, of the latest state polls conducted around the country showed that Mr. Bush led in 27 of them, with 308 electoral votes, while Mr. Gore led in 12 with 160 electoral votes. A number of them were statistical dead heats. It takes 270 electoral votes to be elected president.
Mr. Bush appears to have improved his position in the past several weeks as a result of a series of new campaign proposals aimed at helping low-income families purchase health insurance, buy a home and build savings, and with his calls to "restore civility and respect to our national politics."
At the same time, Mr. Gore appears to have suffered from a number of policy flip-flops and missteps in recent weeks. Some Democrats complained last month that Mr. Gore had "lost his message" and had disappeared from the political stage as he focused much of his time on a series of fund-raisers to boost his depleted campaign treasury.
Mr. Gore also angered some Democrats when he changed his position in the custody battle over Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban shipwreck survivor, and then tried to distance himself from the government's armed seizure of the boy from his Miami relatives.
An NBC News-Zogby Poll found last week that 22 percent of all likely voters said they were less likely to support Mr. Gore because of the positions he has taken in the controversy. Notably, 29 percent of independents a key voter group that will likely decide the outcome of the election said they were less likely to support Mr. Gore because of the way he responded to the issue.
Mr. Bush is ahead in virtually all of the Western plains and mountain states and throughout most of the South. Mr. Gore leads in much of the Northeast and all of the New England states.
But a Mason-Dixon poll conducted on April 14 in Illinois, a major Midwestern prize that carries 22 electoral votes, showed Mr. Bush with a slight 44 percent to 42 percent lead there. Though still inside the survey's 4 percent margin of error, it showed that Mr. Gore has slipped in a key industrial state that he needs to carry if he has any hope of beating Mr. Bush in November.
In the heavily Democratic Northeast, Mr. Bush has begun to inch ahead of Mr. Gore in Pennsylvania by 44 percent to 40 percent, according to the last Mason-Dixon poll.
Mr. Bush has also moved ahead in Oregon, which the Democrats have carried in the last three presidential elections. A survey by the Oregonian newspaper and KATU-TV released the middle of April showed Mr. Bush ahead by 40 percent to 37 percent.
Mr. Bush was also doing better than expected in Washington, a state that the Democrats have also carried in the last three White House races. An Elway Poll last month showed the contest there in a virtual dead heat, with the Texas governor holding a one point lead, 39 percent to 38 percent.
Meanwhile, in California, a state Mr. Gore must hold if he has any hope of overcoming Mr. Bush, Republican strategists said last week that their own polls show the contest there "tightening up. California is definitely in play now," said a state GOP official.
One internal Republican poll by the Republican polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, showed Mr. Bush "down by five points" there among all voters last month. "Among likely voters only, it shows Bush leading by one or two points," the official said.

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