After weeks of attacks against presumptive Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush, Vice President Al Gore, the likely Democratic standard-bearer, has little to show for his effort. An ABC News/Washington Post poll reveals that Mr. Bush, who trailed Mr. Gore by three percentage points in early March after each candidate had effectively won his party’s nomination, now leads the vice president by five percentage points. A Pew Research Center poll also reveals that Mr. Bush has pulled ahead of Mr. Gore.
Arguably the most ominous polling developments for Mr. Gore, however, were contained in a national survey of registered voters conducted by the Los Angeles Times. That poll reflected an eight-point advantage for the Texas Republican governor over Mr. Gore in a one-on-one contest (51 percent to 43 percent) and an eight-point margin (47 percent to 39 percent) in a hypothetical race including Pat Buchanan (4 percent) of the Reform Party and Ralph Nader (3 percent) of the Green Party. It wasn’t so much the bottom-line difference between the two major party candidates that was so surprising. Rather, it was the broad demographic appeal that Mr. Bush had generated and the inroads he seems to be making among core Democratic constituencies.
According to the Times poll, Mr. Bush enjoyed a commanding 21-point advantage among married voters. While decisively leading Mr. Gore among married men, as expected, Mr. Bush also received a significant majority of support among married women. Although President Clinton narrowly carried the 1996 vote of married women, who comprise two-thirds of all female voters, the Times’ poll reported that Mr. Bush was leading Mr. Gore by 14 points among all married women and among married women with children, the so-called “soccer mom” cohort. So large was Mr. Bush’s margin among married women that it more than canceled Mr. Gore’s expected lead among single women. Indeed, Mr. Bush led Mr. Gore among all women by a margin of 48 percent to 46 percent.
Equally worrisome to Mr. Gore must be the fact that the huge, and growing, 16-point margin (55 percent to 39 percent) Mr. Bush enjoys among men comes in part from his ability to attract nearly one-fifth of self-proclaimed Democratic male voters. Among self-described independents, moreover, Mr. Bush leads by a 16-point margin. To build the eight-point snapshot lead six months before the election, Mr. Bush displayed wide-ranging appeal. Although voters 65 and older narrowly prefer Mr. Gore, Mr. Bush has built leads in all other age groups. Apart from families earning $20,000 to $40,000 per year, which are only narrowly favoring Mr. Gore, the Times poll shows Mr. Bush leading among all other income groups. And Mr. Bush has opened leads among voters at every education level, including the traditional Democratic stronghold of high school graduates.
More good news arrived at Bush headquarters recently. The governor received the endorsement of former GOP primary opponent John McCain, who promised to campaign on behalf of the GOP nominee among the independents and moderate Democrats who helped Mr. McCain win seven primaries. Thus, in addition to having virtually unified the Republican base, Mr. Bush has at the same time begun to reassemble important segments of the Republican coalition that produced five victories in the six presidential contests from 1968 through 1988. Mr. Gore has good reason to be worried.