- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2000

LOUISVILLE, Ky. Al Gore encountered generally enthusiastic crowds throughout his frenetic, round-the-clock Labor Day campaign swing, but not everyone was thrilled to see the sleep-deprived vice president approaching with outstretched hand.

Zigzagging from street corner to street corner and from state to state in a mad dash for swing voters, Mr. Gore met his share of non-supporters along the way.

For example, during an impromptu visit to a diner on the way to the Tampa, Fla., airport yesterday, the vice president met a number of people who have no intention of supporting him in November.

"I'm Al Gore," he said as he pumped the hand of a man who appeared to be Cuban-American.

"When Clinton leaves," the man said as TV cameras rolled, "why don't you go with him?"

The vice president just smiled at his tormentor and continued trolling the breakfast crowd for votes. But when he got to Iris Williams, she glared straight ahead at her crossword puzzle.

After shaking the hands of everyone around her, Mr. Gore retraced his steps and found Mrs. Williams still scowling at her newspaper. He tapped her on the shoulder and introduced himself. She managed to remain civil for a moment before redirecting her death ray toward Dear Abby.

"I'm not impressed," Mrs. Williams told The Washington Times. "I treated him nicely. I shook his hand. I'm respectful of the position."

However, she said she "cannot honestly vote for a person that has been involved in some of the controversy over illegal matters."

She described herself as "a lifelong Democrat" and "senior citizen" who is just as unimpressed with Texas Gov. George W. Bush as she is with Mr. Gore.

"I'm not sure that I'm even going to vote for either one of them," she said. "We have not chosen the country's best for either one of the parties. I don't care for the caliber of candidates that we have."

Retiree Larry Pflager, who sat a few stools to the right of Mrs. Williams, was more supportive.

"I've been a Republican all my life, but to tell you the truth, for the last eight years I've changed now to a Democrat," said Mr. Pflager, 59, who added that he "definitely" will vote for Mr. Gore.

Later in the day, Mr. Gore flew to Pittsburgh to march in a Labor Day parade. Thousands of people lined the streets as Mr. Gore ricocheted from one curb to the other, shaking hands and slapping high-fives.

Nearly everyone cheered their support for the vice president, although one woman called out defiantly: "President Bush." Mr. Gore appeared not to hear the heckle.

The vice president kicked off his all-nighter late Sunday, hoping to garner favorable headlines in the middle of a long holiday weekend, when news was expected to be scarce.

But the press ditched the angle before the all-nighter was even an hour old to focus instead on Mr. Bush's abrupt challenge to debate Mr. Gore.

Yesterday, the vice president sought to resurrect the issue of what campaign aides dubbed "Al and Joe's Hard Day's Night Tour." Mr. Gore and his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, split up yesterday morning in order to cover more ground in the sprint for votes.

Gore spokesman Chris Lehane pointed out that while his boss is working around the clock, often visiting two or three states a day, Mr. Bush typically holds just one campaign event per day.

In fact, Mr. Lehane noted that when Mr. Bush tried "doubling his workload" by holding two campaign events yesterday, he became so flustered that he used a vulgar term to describe a reporter.

"What it really reflects is the fact that the dynamics of this campaign have changed, that people are beginning to focus on the issues, and that George W. Bush recognizes that he cannot defend the indefensible as in his tax cut or explain the unexplainable as in why he doesn't have a plan that will help American families," Mr. Lehane said.

"As a result, he's beginning to lash out at people," Mr. Lehane added. "He lashed out at Al Gore last week, and today, he's lashing out at the working press."

To drive home the point, Mr. Gore took the highly unusual step of publicly praising the press during a Labor Day speech in Pittsburgh yesterday, although his wariness of journalists is well known on the campaign trail.

In fact, for the second day in a row, Mr. Gore belittled NBC's "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert and CNN's "Larry King Live" for getting puny ratings. The attacks were meant to undermine Mr. Bush's proposal to debate on both of those shows.

"Whereas nearly 100 million people tuned in to watch the 1992 presidential debates, Larry King's highest-rated show only had 11.3 million viewers," said a Gore news release yesterday. " 'Press' averaged 3.6 million viewers."

As the vice president careens from pizza parlors to all-night diners in all corners of the country, he finds himself presented with an astonishing assortment of food with alarming regularity. After losing weight last summer in order to be fit and trim on the campaign trail, the vice president appears to have regained a few pounds around his midsection.

But most people don't seem to mind as they cheer Mr. Gore at various campaign stops. Back in Tampa yesterday, the vice president approached a few dozen well-wishers on a street corner who seemed to have collectively made up their minds to address the vice president of the United States as Al.

"Way to go, Al," said one woman.

"Go get 'em, Al," added another.

"Thanks for coming out," Mr. Gore said as he worked the crowd before heading for the next campaign stop.

By the end of the marathon yesterday, Mr. Gore was riding in his limousine around the Louisville Motor Speedway and then pressing his nose up against windows opposite reporters in the clubhouse.

Soon the vice president was bragging to an enthusiastic crowd that he had "75,000 cousins" in Kentucky.

"I've been out here 30 straight hours," he said. "You're gonna get the unvarnished truth."

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