- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2000

A male "gender gap" for Texas Gov. George W. Bush has powered him to a 12-point lead in the polls, five months before the presidential elections, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said Thursday.
"Unlike the elections of 1990s, men are more mobilized than women," Miss Lake said yesterday in a briefing at the National Press Club while releasing the latest bipartisan "Voter.com-Battleground 2000" poll, taken jointly with Republican Ed Goeas.
Their poll has Mr. Bush leading Vice President Al Gore by 52 percent to 40 percent in the June 11-13 survey of 1,000 likely voters nationwide. He had led by 48-42 in the same poll in May.
Mr. Bush's lead among men has more than doubled since May, to a 23-point edge compared to 10 points then. Among women, the two remain tied, with Mr. Bush keeping a statistically insignificant two-point lead, Mr. Goeas said.
The poll is widely respected for its bipartisan makeup.
Miss Lake, a veteran pollster for Democratic campaigns, was part of the team of advisers that Mr. Gore hired as part of his campaign organization shakeup. Mr. Goeas, also a veteran campaign pollster, has polled for Republican presidential campaigns and for the Republican National Committee.
Also released Thursday, a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll of registered voters not all of whom are likely to vote had Mr. Bush leading by eight points, 49 percent to 41 percent.
Despite the media fuss made over Mr. Bush's February appearance at Bob Jones University in South Carolina and dire predictions that he had "blown it" with Catholic voters, the Battleground poll has Mr. Bush outperforming Mr. Gore by 53 percent to 42 percent among all likely Catholic voters, and by 58 percent to only 36 percent for Mr. Gore among white Catholic voters.
Republicans have unusually high expectations for winning a bigger share of the Latino vote, in large part because the normally Democratic constituency voted heavily for Mr. Bush for governor. The Goeas-Lake poll shows enthusiasm about Mr. Bush among Hispanics nationwide.
"Although Gore has pulled ahead among Hispanic voters, Bush's Hispanic voters are more intense about their support about him, more likely to turn out right now, than Gore's Hispanic voters," said Miss Lake. "We in the Democratic Party have a challenge there."
She said the data show a "real potential" for Mr. Bush to win "a record number of Hispanic votes."
But while this may help Mr. Bush in some Hispanic-heavy states, California the big prize in the Electoral College still looks beyond his reach, Mr. Goeas and Miss Lake agreed.
Mr. Bush, who began his campaign in June saying he had the leadership qualities to be president, hasn't missed a chance to reiterate that theme since, and voters apparently are buying it. Considerably more of them see leadership in Mr. Bush than in Mr. Gore, according to both polls.
President Clinton appears to be a drag on Mr. Gore, according to the poll. "His personal disapproval rating has hit an all-time high of 64 percent," Mr. Goeas said.
Indeed, a desire to restore moral values in the nation has reached equal importance with improving education, the survey found.
As for Mr. Gore, the more times he attempts to "reinvent" himself, the worse he does among core Democratic voters and voters in general, the bipartisan poll shows.
Congressional Democrats eager to retake control of Congress can find something positive in the poll. On a generic congressional question which party's candidate are you likely to vote for? the Democrats have a two-point advantage, at 42 percent compared to 40 percent for the Republicans.
"This is yet more evidence of a potentially tough race for Republican presidential candidates to move the attention of voters beyond the presidential race," said Mr. Goeas. "Their future is tied to Bush's, but voters have not yet linked the two together."
Mr. Goeas and Miss Lake agreed that their biggest disagreement involved how to explain voter enthusiasm for Mr. Bush and the lack of it for Mr. Gore.
Miss Lake attributes it to Democratic voters particularly women not yet paying attention to the campaign. Mr. Goeas said Democrats lack intensity because they don't like what they see in Mr. Gore and his campaign.

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