- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

PORTLAND, Ore. Al Gore yesterday spent precious hours vying for Oregon's seven electoral votes, underscoring the tight battle for a state where Ralph Nader could derail the Democrat.

The vice president attacked George W. Bush's tax-cut plan in an unusually tough speech at Portland Community College as liberal Democrats rang alarm bells about the Green Party nominee.

Liberal interest groups such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Americans for Democratic Action fear the consumer advocate could help elect Mr. Bush. Mr. Nader could take enough votes to put Democratic states such as Washington, Oregon and Minnesota in the Texas governor's column.

NARAL and Democratic congresswomen will hold a news conference in Washington today to attack Mr. Nader and warn that abortion rights are at stake.

Mr. Nader, who drew 10,000 people to an Aug. 25 rally here in Portland, remains unapologetic, dismissing as "whining, carping, low-expecting politicians" the Democrats who are urging him to drop from the presidential race. He also previewed a new campaign ad.

"It's not my job to get my competitor elected," Mr. Nader said at a news conference yesterday.

Mr. Nader also sought a lift yesterday from a town-hall meeting with Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, a leading independent. Mr. Ventura said his appearance with Mr. Nader at the University of Minnesota for ABC's "Nightline" was not an endorsement.

"I'm there strictly to talk about third-party politics. I have no candidate, really," he said in an interview on Minnesota Public Radio.

But Mr. Ventura denounced warnings that voting for Mr. Nader will only help Mr. Bush win.

"Isn't that interesting? I heard the same thing," he said. "I just am so pleased with the voters of Minnesota that they saw through that farce."

At the "Nightline" meeting, Mr. Nader gave Mr. Bush the most backhanded defense possible.

"Let's not turn this guy into a Ghengis Khan," Mr. Nader said, referring to the 13th-century Mongol leader.

Mr. Nader was responding to a questioner who said the Texas governor could end legal abortion through his Supreme Court appointments.

"First of all, he doesn't know much, secondly he's lazy, and third, he avoids conflict," Mr. Nader, the Green Party's presidential nominee, said to laughter. "Those are all assets."

Mr. Gore did not mention Mr. Nader as he excoriated Mr. Bush in a speech to 350 supporters in a gymnasium at Portland Community College.

The vice president decried Mr. Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut as "class warfare on behalf of billionaires" and said his own targeted tax cuts would help the middle class.

"I have to assume that my opponent's tax plan was designed in some kind of supply-side vacuum, because no matter how you add it up, it means a return to massive deficits," Mr. Gore said.

The vice president dusted off a quote that Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, used against Mr. Bush in the Republican primaries.

"I don't think Bill Gates needs a tax cut, but I think you and your parents do."

Mr. Gore flew from Portland to California for a brief stop before flying all night to Florida. Aides insisted Mr. Gore stopped in Southern California to appear on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," not to put out a Bush fire in California.

"I love the West Coast. I look for any opportunity to go there," Mr. Gore said early yesterday morning as he flew from Milwaukee to Portland on Air Force II.

At the appearance on the show, Mr. Leno held up for the cameras a Rolling Stone cover featuring model Al Gore in tight pants in the presence of candidate Al Gore, in suit and tie.

"Thank you for the million laughs," Jay Leno cracked as he held the magazine up for cameras, noting scuttlebutt that the cover photo of Mr. Gore in khaki pants "had to be airbrushed because it was too sexy."

Mr. Gore, shrugging with an embarrassed smile, paused and seemed to grapple for an appropriate response.

"Jay, I think people buy that magazine for the articles… . Can we move right along?"

Mr. Gore, shown photographs of himself in Halloween costume, explained how one year, he took an important national-security call dressed as Frankenstein.

He deadpanned that should something similar happen to a President Gore, he would not hesitate to address the nation costumed as a monster. "It might help if it was, like, a warning to Saddam Hussein or something. It might really resolve that."

After the Leno taping, California Gov. Gray Davis, actor Martin Sheen, director Rob Reiner and the Rev. Jesse Jackson joined Mr. Gore last night for a brief, boisterous outdoor rally in downtown Los Angeles.

Mr. Gore looked out at a crowd of several thousand people and shouted: "We are going to win California book it."

Like Mr. Gore, Mr. Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet on NBC's "The West Wing," appeared on Mr. Leno's show last night.

Mr. Sheen told reporters backstage that long before the Green Party nominated Mr. Nader, a pollster for the Green Party asked Mr. Sheen whether he wanted to run for president under the party's banner.

"I play a guy named Bartlet. That's where the interest is don't get that confused," Mr. Sheen told reporters. "I pulled out of it very quickly."

The Gore campaign is skittish about Mr. Nader's potential on traditionally Democratic turf.

"Think about it if you wake up Wednesday morning, Nov. 8, and George Bush is our president because you voted for Nader," Mr. Gore's running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, said last week during a rally in Vancouver, Wash.

Mr. Nader averages about 4 percent in national polls, but comes in higher in many of the half-dozen traditionally Democratic states considered tossups between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush.

Nader campaign manager Theresa Amato disputed claims that the Green Party nominee had promised not to campaign in states where he might hurt Mr. Gore.

"In fact, he made the opposite promise. When he started his candidacy, he said, 'I'm going to all 50 states.' And he has been to all 50, including Alaska and Hawaii," she said.

Mr. Nader said last night at the Minneapolis meeting that voters who back him will get "an instant watchdog" in Washington.

"I say to some of these people with whom I've worked for many years, 'For heaven's sake, raise your expectation level. Don't settle for too little,' " he said.

Mr. Ventura indicated he will not endorse Mr. Nader. He said he will take "a closer look" at John Hagelin, nominee of the Natural Law Party.

"I'm having a difficult time because I'm a centrist and there's nobody out there who's a centrist," the Minnesota governor said yesterday on NBC's "Today" show.

"You've got Mr. Nader, who's farther left than the vice president. You've got Mr. Buchanan, who's farther right than Governor Bush."

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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