- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Al Gore has fallen into honesty and leadership gaps, driven down his approval rating with likely voters and damaged his own campaign, the nation's top pollsters said yesterday.
They said the vice president's "sighs and lies" debate performance a week ago and renewed voter suspicion that he is careless with facts pushed George W. Bush ahead in nearly all national presidential campaign surveys and in several important state polls.
Many voters who were not already staunch Gore supporters say he was "obnoxious" and "pushy" in the debate. Charges of exaggerations and self-inflation that became news afterward account for his decline and Mr. Bush's steady rise in the presidential preference surveys.
"When we did our post-debate poll, Gore won the debate 48-41 percent," said Gallup poll managing editor Jeff Jones. "But the perception of Gore among likely voters has moved toward unfavorable, and the ballot question [choice for president] has started moving strongly toward Bush."
"So even though a lot of people initially believed and continue to believe Gore won the debate, he did a lot of damage to his own cause and how people view him," Mr. Jones said. "I think it was the way he conducted himself during the debate."
Independent pollster John Zogby said "Gore's numbers have been going down every day. Ever since the debate, which he won by a small margin, the news about Gore has been dominated by his embellishments and exaggerations and that has been more dominant in news than anything about this message."
"The flip side when Bush was in a funk after the Democratic convention and all that kept coming out was 'rats' and Adam Clymer and Bush's confusion over numbers," Mr. Zogby said.
The Republican candidate is "starting to open up a serious lead," said Scott Rasmussen, whose Portrait of America sampling of 2,250 likely voters now has Mr. Bush ahead by 7 points, 46 percent to 39 percent.
"It now appears the debate was a definite plus for Bush, not Gore," he said. "Bush has his biggest lead since Labor Day.
In the presidential horse race, Mr. Zogby's daily tracking survey went from a 46-40 Gore lead last Tuesday to 43-42 for the three-day average Sunday.
"Gore has gone down a point a day but Bush hasn't capitalized," said Mr. Zogby. "Yesterday's polling was the first time I had Bush leading in one day," when he led Mr. Gore 43 percent to 41 percent.
Going into the Democratic convention in August, Mr. Bush had big leads over Mr. Gore in nearly all polls, and by 53 percent to 39 percent in a Time-CNN poll. It found Mr. Gore's relative unpopularity his biggest problem. More than six in 10 voters had a favorable opinion of Mr. Bush but less than half viewed Mr. Gore favorably last summer.
What has come back to haunt Mr. Gore are the negative perceptions of him that voters held before he began to turn things around at the Democratic convention.
But the poll numbers suggest he has fallen back. The latest Gallup-CNN-USA Today poll, for example, shows that on honesty, 48 percent of voters pick Mr. Bush, 34 percent choose Mr. Gore.
When it comes to who is the stronger and more decisive leader, Mr. Bush gets the nod, 48 percent to 38 percent. On who is the most likable, Mr. Bush wins by 49 percent to 38 percent for Mr. Gore.
In the bipartisan Battleground 2000 tracking poll, conducted by by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake and Republican pollster Ed Goeas, Mr. Gore's favorable rating has been dropping and his unfavorable rating rising over the same period, as Mr. Bush has gradually opened his lead.
"We're seeing the gap close once again with women, and it's because women don't like this untruthfulness and are sensitive to it," Mr. Goeas said.
Mr. Goeas says President Clinton is partly to blame because voters "had doubts about this president and are now seeing similar doubts about Al Gore.
Mr. Goeas attributes the initial swing toward Mr. Bush to suspicion that Mr. Gore persuaded Mr. Clinton to release petroleum from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to drive down oil-product prices and gain votes.
"People saw that as political, then Gore's debate performance furthered the swing toward Bush," Mr. Goeas said.
That assessment dovetails with Mr. Gore's unfavorable rating having soared 17 points, from 36 percent to 53 percent in the Gallup-CNN-USA Today survey.
Equally jarring for Mr. Gore is that his favorable rating fell 16 points, from 59 percent to 43 percent, over the same period.
By contrast, voters continue to like Mr. Bush. His favorable rating in the same Gallup poll is 61 percent, while 35 percent have an unfavorable view. This represents almost no change from the Sept. 28-30 survey period.

Fact and Fiction: A compilation of statements made by Vice President Al Gore that Republicans and the media have found to be untrue or embellished.

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