- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

TAMPA, Fla. Al Gore said yesterday that "Social Security itself is on the ballot" and ridiculed George W. Bush's partial-privatization plan.
The Texas governor's proposal should be called "social insecurity," Mr. Gore said as he sought 25 electoral votes in a state where more than a third of registered voters are 60 years of age or older.
"My opponent talks about a commitment to today's retirees," he told several hundred supporters at Kissimmee Civic Center. "But let's be clear on this: soothing words don't pay the rent, much less buy prescription medicine."
The charge drew a pointed response from retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who campaigned in the state yesterday with Bush running mate Richard B. Cheney.
"This is not only untrue, it's a blatant lie," the general said at a rally in Punta Gorda, a Republican stronghold in southwest Florida. "George W. Bush guarantees those at or near retirement will see no change at all in their benefits.
"The Gore campaign is waging a campaign of fear among senior Americans and that's just not right," he said.
Mr. Gore, however, said the Bush plan doesn't add up.
"The American Academy of Actuaries looked at his [Social Security] plan and concluded it would lead to catastrophic results. He said he rejects their premise.
"What premise? Addition or subtraction?"
He also said Mr. Bush refuses to detail his Social Security plan until after he is elected president.
"That's fine," Mr. Gore said. "We're going to win Florida and it won't matter."
Mr. Gore's running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, campaigned yesterday in Hollywood and in Daytona Beach on the same message.
Mr. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, is popular with retirees in South Florida and may help Mr. Gore's chance to take the state. Mr. Lieberman told CNN's Larry King on Tuesday night that he has made so many campaign trips to Florida he feels like he lives there.
Both Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush hope Florida will give them a huge boost toward 270 electoral votes, but the outcome remains uncertain.
A Reuters-MSNBC poll released yesterday gave Mr. Gore a 12-point margin in Florida, but a Los Angeles Times poll released Tuesday showed Mr. Bush with a four-point lead in Florida.
Bob Poe, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, does not believe Mr. Gore has a double-digit lead. Internal Democratic polls suggest Mr. Gore is up two percentage points, he told reporters in Kissimmee.
"Florida is key, and I honestly don't believe that Governor Bush can win the election if we win Florida," Mr. Lieberman said on CNN. But Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett predicted the Texas governor will win Florida.
Neither campaign expected Mr. Bush to be battling for Florida so close to the election.
Florida, the fourth-largest prize in the Electoral College, is teeming with candidates and campaign commercials with five days left until Election Day.
Former President George Bush, his wife, Barbara, and another of their sons, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, campaigned together Tuesday in Orlando.
"I can guarantee you George W. Bush will restore dignity to the White House," the former president said Tuesday night at Orlando First Baptist Church.
Together, the Gore and Bush campaigns and the Democratic and Republican parties are spending nearly $5 million on television ads in Florida this week alone.
The Bush campaign, the Florida Republican Party and the national Republican Party are spending a combined $2.7 million on ads in Florida this week. The Gore campaign and the Democratic Party are spending $2.1 million combined.
The battle for Florida is so tight that the NAACP is registering black jail inmates in Orange and Seminole counties who do not have felony convictions and are still eligible to vote, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Both campaigns are pouring millions of recorded get-out-the-vote calls into Floridians' homes. Mr. Bush's mother, Mr. Cheney and Sen. John McCain have recorded calls piped to Republican homes.
Democratic households are receiving recorded calls from President Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor Ed Asner, a liberal activist.
"Our strategy was to develop a mosaic the mosaic being senior citizens, African-Americans, women and independents," said Mr. Poe, the Florida Democratic Party chairman.
"We've done a very good job of creating that mosaic and in that mosaic there's a majority. We've got folks energized. Now we've got to get them mobilized."
The Democrats hope pro-Gore Puerto Ricans in central Florida will help offset the votes of conservative Cuban-Americans angry about the Clinton administration's seizure of Elian Gonzalez.
"This used to be redneck cowboy country," Mr. Poe said in Kissimmee. "Now you heard them out there in the crowd yelling, 'Viva Gore,' " he said.
Mr. Gore's traveling talent show continued yesterday as singer Jimmy Buffet headlined a Gore rally in Tampa, where the vice president trumpeted his credentials as an environmentalist.
Late Tuesday night, Mr. Gore campaigned in downtown Los Angeles with Hollywood luminaries such as Martin Sheen, Rob Reiner, Jimmy Smits, Ben Affleck, Cher and Whoopi Goldberg. Last night, Mr. Gore flew to Scranton, Pa., to campaign in another key battleground state.
Mr. Gore also promised a ban on new oil drilling off the Florida coast. He accused Mr. Bush of waffling on the issue and giving voters "a real choice on the environment in six days."
Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said her boss supports the current moratorium on new drilling leases, but existing pacts would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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