- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

According to the most recent Gallup poll, Al Gore is trailing George W. Bush by 10 points, the largest margin for either presidential candidate in three weeks. With just 16 days before the election, Democrats find themselves in desperate situations that require desperate measures.

Part of the problem identified by Mr. Gore's advisers is perfunctory support among a key constituency: black voters. While Mr. Clinton boasted the strong support of blacks in 1996, Mr. Gore can't say the same. Strategists understand that this translates into diminished black voter turnout, and without such critical votes in battleground states, the vice president is in trouble.

Enter the fevered push by Democrats to get blacks to vote. It began with a decision to spend massive amounts of money in swing states with large black populations. In Florida, the party is spending $1.25 million to promote black turnout, more than one-third of what was spent nationally in all of 1996 and double what was spent in Florida. Similar drives are taking place in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, while efforts in less crucial states are being scaled back. It would be nice but hardly reasonable to think that his efforts were an exercise in what George W. Bush calls "affirmative access," simply inviting more minorities to participate in the political process. But this exercise is self-serving, of course. Mr. Gore knows that the bigger the minority turnout, the better his chances.

Apparently he will say almost anything to achieve that end. Try to imagine what would happen if a Republican were to suggest his candidacy had God's endorsement. Mr. Gore had no problem claiming God's imprimatur. "I'm asking you in your sermons to do the work of the Lord here on earth," Mr. Gore pleaded. Rev. Ronald Williams of Portland, Ore., got the message loud and clear. In a recent prayer he asked God to "strengthen [Gore] against those who would attempt to weaken him" and for "success in voter registration and success in voter turnout and success and victory on Election Day."

In addition to claiming God for the Democratic side, campaign strategists know the power of fear. Accordingly, the vice president has recently become more vocal about "hate crimes" legislation. It provides an opportunity to point to the racially charged murder of James Byrd in Texas. In the second debate, Mr. Gore was quick to segue to this topic from a barely tangential question on racial profiling. He explained that Mr. Bush had refused to support the specific hate-crimes legislation endorsed by the Byrd family, which resulted in the bill's failure. The implication was clear: Mr. Bush's lack of support shows how he feels about blacks.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is adding its own partisan attacks to those of Democrats. The organization is running ads citing the Byrd case, quoting his daughter to the effect that Mr. Bush is himself a racist murderer. "So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation," she says in one ad, "it was like my father was killed all over again." In view of ads like this, it's a wonder Mr. Bush has any support left among minorities.

That he is actually running better among minorities than any Republican in recent years is a credit to his effort to deal with minorities on issues that matter to them. Mr. Bush's support for school vouchers, for example, resonates among urban minorities whose children are trapped in failing schools. Meanwhile, Mr. Gore's strategy is based on insulting assumptions: That not only will blacks always vote Democrat, but all that is needed to get them to do so is a little fear-mongering. This year, for a change, fear-mongering may not be enough.

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