- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000


Some analysts and strategists yesterday had second thoughts about how much weight Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman actually brings to Al Gore beyond his reputation for ethics as a result of his scolding of President Clinton's "immoral behavior" at the White House.
They question whether the Connecticut senator has broad grass-roots appeal beyond the generally liberal Northeastern states where Mr. Gore's own strength lies.
Mr. Lieberman, in their view, will help the ticket in his home state, which public-opinion polls have shown to be leaning toward George W. Bush in the past few months.
Strategists and political pollsters say he could also help in key states, such as Pennsylvania, where there is a sizable Jewish vote and where Mr. Bush leads now, but only narrowly. Yet most states in the region, particularly New Jersey, New York and the New England states, are already securely in the Democratic column.
In the rest of the nation, Mr. Lieberman is not well known despite his Senate speech condemning Mr. Clinton's behavior with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky, and is thought to hold little attraction for voters.
In the South, West and the Plains states, where Mr. Gore is weakest, he will likely be no help at all.
"I don't think Lieberman helps Gore much in the South, maybe in the urban communities, but not in the rural and suburban areas," says Merle Black, who studies Southern voting patterns at Emory University. "I don't think Lieberman adds a lot to the ticket in terms of Southern whites. Bush is leading Gore by probably 2-to-1 among Southern whites and I don't see Lieberman moving those numbers much."
Mr. Lieberman is likely to have an impact in southern Florida, with its large concentration of Jewish emigres from the Northeastern states, but Gov. Jeb Bush, the GOP nominee's popular brother, is thought to have the situation well in hand.
Polls show the Texas governor has maintained his edge in his brother's state since he clinched the nomination in the primaries.
"Lieberman will help in South Florida but probably not enough to change the outcome there," Mr. Black said.
"He will certainly help in California and possibly in Pennsylvania and Illinois, and in his own state, but that may be about it," said independent pollster John Zogby.
"Lieberman can probably help Gore in the Northeast and maybe in a few other states but he is not very well known nationally and it is hard to see him helping Gore much outside his own region," Mr. Black said yesterday.
Other analysts agreed with that assessment.
By choosing Mr. Lieberman for the No. 2 spot, "it is probably a signal that Gore isn't going to make a major pitch for the South," said Hastings Wyman, who publishes the Southern Political Report newsletter.
Mr. Lieberman "certainly doesn't help in the South and it could potentially hurt him" in the heavily Protestant Bible Belt region, said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia.
In fact, most independent analysts interviewed yesterday said they found it difficult to list many states outside of the Northeast where Mr. Lieberman could help Mr. Gore.
Except for his home state of Tennessee, where Mr. Gore holds a very narrow lead, polls show that Mr. Bush is ahead throughout the South, all the mountain and plains states, and most of the Midwest.
The senator could also help Mr. Gore marginally in California, but here, too, this state has been in Mr. Gore's column all year, though the race has begun to tighten there in the last month.
Mr. Lieberman may have some influence in the large industrial Midwest state of Illinois, where the race is in a dead heat, but Republican strategists and pollsters in the region do not think that he will have much if any impact in the region at large.
In Michigan, for example, Republican pollster Steve Mitchell does not see Mr. Lieberman affecting Mr. Bush's nearly 10-point lead in the state.
"There's a very high Arab population in the state and there could be a backlash" against Mr. Lieberman, who is Jewish, he said.
But like many other pollsters, Mr. Mitchell does not see Mr. Lieberman's religion having much if any major impact on the outcome of the election.
"Jewish voters have been voting Democratic in the last several presidential election cycles and always in high numbers, so that is not going to change much," he said.
Besides, he added, "when push comes to shove people cast their ballot for the top of the ticket and not the vice-presidential candidate. The choice in this election is between Bush and Gore."

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