- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2000

LOS ANGELES Vice President Al Gore is beginning to consolidate his Democratic base, but is lagging among independent voters and is still trailing his rival, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, by 9 percentage points, according to two polls released yesterday.

A new Voter.com-Battleground poll of 1,000 registered voters, which was taken Sunday and Monday, shows that as the Democratic convention got under way, support for Mr. Gore among Democrats has reached 87 percent. His Democratic support has risen by 14 percentage points since the last poll was taken in early August, immediately after the Republican convention.

"You see the intensity now of Democrats in terms of voting, and voting for Al Gore, up to the same level that you see Republicans voting for George W. Bush," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas, referring to the 90 percent support rate Mr. Bush enjoys among Republicans.

"The big news here is that even after the last 10 days [since the end of the Republican convention], what we've not seen in this reinvention time for Al Gore, we've not seen him move the independent voters," he said. Mr. Bush's lead among swing voters has changed little since the Republican convention.

The Battleground poll, which has a 3 percent margin of error, shows that in a four-way contest taking into account Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan Mr. Bush comes out ahead, gathering 47 percent of the vote to Mr. Gore's 38 percent, Mr. Buchanan's 1 percent, and Mr. Nader's 4 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

Mr. Bush had led by 18 percentage points immediately after the Republican convention.

"The central dynamic of this race is, across the board, Democrats just woke up and realized they have a race, and Democrats have joined Republicans to consolidate behind their candidate," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

She suggested that the key target groups for Democrats will be white Catholics, who favor Mr. Bush by 17 points, and married women, where Mr. Bush ranks 16 points higher than Mr. Gore. Other groups, such as households with a union member, have intensified their support for the vice president.

The Los Angeles Times poll showed Mr. Bush leading with 48 percent to Mr. Gore's 39 percent among all registered voters. But among likely voters, Mr. Bush's lead was 12 percentage points, with 52 percent to Mr. Gore's 40 percent in a four-way race.

The two polls suggest that Mr. Gore will have to work hard to convince voters that he is a likable candidate with strong leadership potential.

The Voter.com-Battleground poll showed that Mr. Bush's favorability rating is 10 points higher than Mr. Gore's (62 percent to 52 percent) and his unfavorability rating is 8 points lower than the vice president's (30 to 38 percent). Mr. Gore's favorable ratings are up slightly and his unfavorable ratings down since the Republican convention.

The Los Angeles Times poll showed Mr. Bush with a smaller favorability lead over Mr. Gore, 59 percent to 54 percent. The poll marked the candidates' unfavorable ratings at 33 percent for Mr. Bush and 40 percent for Mr. Gore.

Ms. Lake said it is important for Democrats to shift the focus of the election to issues, instead of personality.

"This is one of the central goals of the convention, and it's already happening," she said.

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