- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

Vice President Al Gore, saying "prosperity itself" is at stake Nov. 7, yesterday shifted his focus to the nation's strong economy, the issue he hopes will be his ace in the hole.
Mr. Gore, who has spent the week touting his Medicare plans, hopes to rebound in the national polls by casting himself as the candidate who can protect and maintain the nation's prosperity.
"We've come a long way these past eight years, but I am not satisfied," Mr. Gore said in a speech at the Brookings Institution.
"America is the strongest, most powerful, most prosperous country the world has ever known, but we can be stronger, more powerful, and more prosperous still."
Mr. Gore is wrapping himself in the economic progress of the Clinton years. But the vice president, who has declared he is running as "my own man," is in no hurry to campaign with President Clinton.
"He's offered to be helpful, and I'm sure he will be," Mr. Gore told reporters Wednesday night as he flew from Des Moines, Iowa, to Andrews Air Force Base on Air Force Two.
"As I've said on many occasions, he's got a full-time job and he's doing it well and that's what he's going to be mainly occupied with."
At Brookings yesterday, Mr. Gore renewed his attack on Texas Gov. George W. Bush's $1.3 trillion, 10-year tax cut as a threat to prosperity.
"I will not accept a massive tax cut that gives almost half the benefits to the wealthiest 1 percent, which would hurt middle-class families and make today's balanced budget tomorrow's distant memory," Mr. Gore said.
Mr. Bush, campaigning in Green Bay, Wis., responded by casting Mr. Gore as a throwback to the era of big government.
"His promises throw the budget out of balance. He offers a big federal spending program to nearly every voting bloc," Mr. Bush said.
"If the vice president gets elected, the era of big government being over is over."
The jockeying over the economy is a likely preview of Tuesday's first presidential debate in Boston. Mr. Gore heads to Sarasota, Fla., tomorrow for a weekend of debate preparation. Mr. Bush will hole up in Austin.
Mr. Gore, aware that many voters find Mr. Bush more likable in national polls, tried a pre-emptive strike yesterday. He cast his serious public persona as an asset.
Mr. Gore said he was willing to make tough decisions to eliminate the national debt by 2012, to extend the solvency of Social Security for 50 years and to protect Medicare for the next 30 years.
"I've said many times that the presidency is not a popularity contest," Mr. Gore said at Brookings.
"Sometimes you have to be willing to spend your popularity. Sometimes you have to be willing to do what's difficult or unpopular.
"It's always easier to spend money you don't have, rather than save for a rainy day. That's how we ended up with a multi-trillion-dollar national debt in the first place."
Mr. Gore, appearing last night with his wife, Tipper, on CNN's "Larry King Live," said only campaign donors who are his close friends would be allowed to spend the night at the White House if he became president.
"If you say you know you're never going to have a guest that has supported your campaign, that's not feasible," Mr. Gore said.
"If somebody is a close friend who is also a campaign supporter, yes," that person could spend the night at the White House, Mr. Gore said. But the Gores both said a donor who is not a close friend could not spend the night at the White House.
Last week, the White House disclosed that nearly one in four overnight guests at the White House and Camp David since July 1999 gave to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign.
In another exchange in the latest stop in his tour of the leading TV talk shows, Mr. Gore denied the charge that he is prone to exaggeration.
"I think that itself is an exaggeration. I think that in a campaign if you get a fact wrong all of a sudden you're accused, you know, of committing some horrible offense."
This month, Mr. Gore has appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show, traded jokes with David Letterman and Jay Leno and fielded questions from students at a forum sponsored by MTV. Mr. Bush moved ahead in the national polls as he projected an avuncular presence on shows hosted by Miss Winfrey, Regis Philbin and Mr. King.
The candidates believe talk-show appearances appeal to voters who may not be political junkies. The candidates also rarely face tough questions in such formats.
"Every campaign cycle has different developments in how you communicate to people," Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said.
"Clearly, in this media age when you have this veritable plethora of talk shows out there that people look to for information it's a great way to communicate to people."

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