- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Despite trailing in California, Bush not ceding

President Clinton's limousine ran out of gas just as Vice President Al Gore's California campaign was shifting into overdrive.

Mr. Clinton's limousine stalled on a highway near Palo Alto Sunday, shortly after he dropped off daughter Chelsea at Stanford University. Another limousine in the same motorcade carried the president to a private home where he was staying.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gore burned up California's highways, seeking 54 electoral votes to fuel his presidential bid.

In Santa Monica Sunday afternoon, Mr. Gore stood on a flatbed truck and pledged his support to striking janitors, many of them Hispanic.

"The position of president is the only one filled by someone who has the responsibility to fight for all of the people, not just the wealthy and the powerful, the connected, the influential, but all of the people, including the janitors," Mr. Gore said.

In San Jose Friday, Mr. Gore said he would ban firearms from places of worship. He raised $2.6 million for the Democratic National Committee Friday during a lunch with supporters in Silicon Valley.

On Saturday night in Beverly Hills, Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton shared a stage for the first time in four months and raked in $2.8 million for the DNC.

Mr. Gore leads Texas Gov. George W. Bush by 9 points in the latest California Field poll. He is leaving little to chance in his most critical electoral state.

California "is uphill for us," concedes Stuart DeVeaux, a spokesman for the California Republican Party.

But "we're in a good position," considering that Mr. Gore has made 67 trips to California and Mr. Bush has made fewer than 20, he said.

California "is really a high mountain for George Bush to climb," says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political science professor at Claremont Graduate University, near Los Angeles.

But Mr. Bush "is going to have to think long and hard about walking away from this state," she said.

The California Republican Party is trying to rebuild 18 months after Democrat Gray Davis won the governorship by 20 points.

The stakes in California go beyond its electoral gold mine 10 percent of the nation's 538 electoral votes.

Nationally, Democrats need a net gain of only six seats to retake control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994. Democrats hope to gain at least two of those seats in California.

Former Rep. Jane Harman, a Democrat who ran for governor in 1998, is trying to reclaim her old seat in Los Angeles from Republican Steven T. Kuykendall.

In Pasadena, state Sen. Adam Schiff, a Democrat, hopes to knock off Rep. James E. Rogan, a Republican who helped present the impeachment case at President Clinton's Senate trial.

Mr. Bush ultimately may decide his money is better spent mining electoral votes in lucrative Rust Belt states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania where he now leads and Michigan, where a new poll shows him tied with Mr. Gore.

"Governor Bush has always prioritized California," said Margarita Thompson, a spokeswoman for the California Bush campaign.

Mr. Clinton carried California by 13 percentage points in 1992 and in 1996. Republican George Bush, the Texas governor's father, carried California by 3 percentage points in 1988.

Mr. Clinton and daughter Chelsea spent Sunday together in San Francisco, attending Palm Sunday services, eating lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and hoping to take in a San Francisco Giants baseball game that was rained out.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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