- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2000

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. Al Gore yesterday began a swing through Arkansas and Tennessee, two of more than a half-dozen states Mr. Gore twice carried as a vice-presidential candidate but that are now too close to call.
"This is the only state that borders Tennessee and Texas," Mr. Gore told supporters during a rally in Little Rock's River Market Square. "This state is fiercely competitive. I'm claiming more cousins with each trip."
But the Gore campaign yesterday threw in the towel on another state Ohio.
"Bush is going to win Ohio," Gore spokesman Todd Webster told MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who repeated the statement on the afternoon edition of "Hardball."
The last candidate who lost Ohio but won the presidency was an incumbent, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944.
Mr. Gore's campaign will travel to 11 states this week, all of which the Clinton-Gore ticket carried in both 1992 and 1996. Besides his and President Clinton's home states, Mr. Gore also is spending the penultimate week of the campaign trying to defend Louisiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania, all of which went Democratic in 1992 and 1996.
Of the 10 states that have voted Democratic in the last three elections, polls show Mr. Gore trailing or tied with Republican George W. Bush in six: Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
In addition, fear of losing the electoral plum of California, where the vice president's lead has been cut in half in recent weeks, has the Gore campaign scrambling and yesterday even slowed the Green Party campaign of Ralph Nader.
A group of Nader supporters yesterday scaled back dramatically a series of newspaper ads out of concern that votes for him could cost Mr. Gore the state.
Greg MacArthur, a New York businessman paying for full-page ads to boost Mr. Nader, cited strategic reasons for his yanking the ads from the state's largest dailies, although they still will run in several weekly publications.
"I still think Gore is going to win California, but if the perception is such that it's a tight race, then that's the wrong market for me to be advertising in," Mr. MacArthur said. California isn't "the obvious slam-dunk" it had seemed earlier.
The Bush campaign is especially heartened that it has forced Mr. Gore to fight at this late date in traditionally Democratic states he should have locked up weeks ago.
"With two weeks to go in this campaign, Al Gore is still struggling to gain support in states that strongly supported Bill Clinton in the last two elections," Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said.
"It speaks volumes that Al Gore will have to campaign in his home state of Tennessee with just two weeks left in the campaign."
Tennessee operatives say Mr. Bush, who was in the state yesterday, is faring well because many voters there no longer view Mr. Gore as one of their own.
"If he had been governor instead of vice president, he would have had a better-oiled machine," said Byron Trauger, a Democratic donor and Gore pal.
Linda Koehn, a nurse from Hot Springs, made a similar point in explaining before the Little Rock rally that Arkansas is not a slam dunk for Mr. Gore because of Mr. Bush's Texas roots.
"Texas is right at our back door," she said. "Bush sounds like a good old Arkansas boy. He has a common way of talking that a lot of people associate with. But he had the same Ivy League education that Al Gore had."
Mr. Gore, traveling on Air Force Two from Shreveport, La., to Nashville last night, played down his campaigning in his home state.
"Look, I feel good about my home state, but Tennessee has always been close," he said. "It was close in '92; it was close in '96. It has a Republican governor and two Republican senators. It used to have a Democratic governor and two Democratic senators.
"It's a border state and it's always a state where you have to campaign hard and you know, there's nothing new about that. It's been that way for the last 30 years at least."
In addition, Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said yesterday that Mr. Bush should worry about Florida, which has turned into a fierce fight and where Mr. Bush will campaign today and tomorrow.
"No Republican has won the presidency without Florida in the air-conditioned era," he said.
But Bush advisers say Mr. Gore's spending so much time in states Republicans haven't won since the Reagan era only helps their chances in the swing states.
"Those are precious hours that can't be spent in Michigan, Pennsylvania or Illinois," Bush adviser Ralph Reed said. "To be parachuting Al Gore into solidly Democratic states is extremely telling."
To make matters worse for the Gore campaign, California's 54 electoral votes are looking less secure by the day.
The Public Policy Institute of California poll released Monday shows that Mr. Gore, who led by nine percentage points a month ago, now leads by just 44 percent to 39 percent. Support for Green Party candidate Mr. Nader has reached 6 percent, with 8 percent still undecided.
"We're all getting more nervous about it," said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin, whose own surveys have Mr. Gore's lead slipping. "We have a triple threat: They have more money, more energy and we have a Ralph Nader drag."
California Democrats are stepping up pressure on Gore headquarters in Nashville for a larger Gore presence, either in person or through advertising.
But, one influential party member told the Associated Press, "No one is holding out hope that Gore will come."
Mr. Gore has not visited California since Sept. 20, preferring to use the state as a source of cash. A September three-day trip, which included two fund-raisers, was the vice president's 10th visit this year, but his first since the Los Angeles convention in mid-August.
But he and running mate Joseph I. Lieberman have helped raise money there more than $11 million in just two post-convention swings for the Democratic Party to spend elsewhere.
Looking to energize his base in his trip to Arkansas, Mr. Gore received more advice to unleash Mr. Clinton advice he resisted.
The vice president barely mentioned Mr. Clinton during his two speeches in Little Rock, and CNN's daily tracking poll yesterday warned of the perils of campaigning with the president.
The poll found that if Mr. Clinton were to campaign actively with Mr. Gore, 17 percent of respondents would be more likely to support the vice president, but 40 percent would be less likely.
Former Sen. Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, who introduced Mr. Gore at the Little Rock rally, told reporters after the rally that Mr. Gore should not leave Mr. Clinton in a lockbox with two weeks left until the presidential election.
"Frankly, I disagree with it," Mr. Bumpers said.
"I could be dead wrong and wouldn't want to second-guess, but I know Bill Clinton's capabilities and I know how he turns people on," Mr. Bumpers said.
"Right now, there are probably more undecideds than there have been in a long time at this stage of a presidential race," he added.
"I'm just saying Bill Clinton is the one person I know who could energize those people and maybe swing them over to Al Gore's side."
Dave Boyer contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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