- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

SAN JOSE, Calif. George W. Bush swept through California's Republican midsection yesterday, inviting comparisons with Ronald Reagan in his bid for an upset victory in the state.

At a boisterous political rally and at a somber meeting with recovering addicts at a shelter, Mr. Bush called for voters to help him conduct "the people's business." And his message of God, duty and country was distinctly Reaganesque.

"It's the spirit of this country that sets us apart from the other nations in the world," Mr. Bush said at the faith-based shelter in the prosperous Silicon Valley. "The next president must understand that to capture the compassion of America."

Meanwhile, the Bush campaign released a survey that shows the Republican nominee is polling well among Hispanic voters, a key constituency in California.

The Republican departed California for the last time before Election Day just as his opponent, Vice President Al Gore, and President Clinton were arriving to shore up Democratic support. But Mr. Bush said the president's visit would work in his favor.

"I know [Mr. Gore] has been fighting … to get out from behind the president's shadow," Mr. Bush said. "But they're telling me the shadow's coming back [to California]. That's OK. It's just to remind people we don't need four more years of Clinton-Gore."

Mr. Bush's visit to California, where Mr. Reagan was governor, in the final week of the campaign showed some of the same boundless optimism that endeared Mr. Reagan to his supporters. The polls say Mr. Bush won't win here two surveys over the weekend had him trailing Mr. Gore by seven and 10 percentage points. Yet the Republican nominee left the state yesterday still insisting he will win it.

"California is going to go Bush-Cheney on Nov. 7," he said.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, compared Mr. Bush with Mr. Reagan this week to deflect Democratic criticism that the Texas governor isn't up to the job of president. Democrats, Mr. McCain said, leveled the same accusation at Mr. Reagan in 1980.

Many politicians even Mr. Gore have invoked the name of the popular former president for politician gain. And while Mr. Bush and aides are not exactly claiming he is the next Reagan, neither do they discourage the talk. Mr. Bush made a point of invoking the former president's name on the "Tonight Show" Monday night, saying he admired Mr. Reagan's optimism.

The Republican nominee also has told voters lately that today's prosperity is due in large part to the "Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s."

"The people of California understand the similarities between 1980 and 2000," said Bush spokesman Scott McClellan. "Like Ronald Reagan, Governor Bush understands that the role of a leader is to set a clear agenda to get things done and bring people together. Like Ronald Reagan, Governor Bush is setting a positive, uplifting tone for the country, in stark contrast to Al Gore, who is playing upon fear."

As if responding to the tenor of Mr. Bush's California campaigning, Mr. Gore suggested in an Oregon speech yesterday that Mr. Bush is getting by on personality.

"The presidency is really not just a personality contest. If you want someone who smiles and looks the other way while special interests loot the surplus, then I'm not your guy," Mr. Gore said.

"But if you want someone who knows how to fight for your interests and has the experience to win those battles on your behalf, then I ask for your support. And in fact, I can say no to the special interests with a smile."

Mr. Bush was in Oregon later yesterday and drew more than 5,000 people last night at an arena in downtown Portland.

The Texas governor reveled in the news that only about 500 people had attended the earlier Gore event.

"No one would ever have dreamt that a Republican like George W., with exactly a week to go in the campaign, would come to Portland, Oregon, and have thousands of people come," Mr. Bush said. "This has got to be an event that confounds the punditry. I think it tells you something about this election."

The crowd interrupted Mr. Bush several times with chants of "One more week" and "No more Gore." One banner hanging near the stage proclaimed, "It's the Integrity, Stupid."

The Republican criticized Mr. Gore's proposed "targeted" tax cuts, arguing that his plan would not provide relief to 50 million U.S. taxpayers.

"It's like he wants to be able to talk about the issue but really doesn't have anything substantive," Mr. Bush said. "That's the kind of politics we need to get rid of in America."

That aside, the personality of Mr. Reagan was clearly on Mr. Bush's mind. He described himself as a Westerner, a characterization that has resumed a prominent place in his speeches recently.

"You know the place you're raised, you develop an attitude," Mr. Bush said in Fresno. "My attitude is government ought to be limited, it ought to do a few things and do them well, that our government ought to trust people."

He added of Mr. Gore, "You can understand why a fellow raised in a hotel in Washington, D.C., thinks the federal government ought to solve all of our problems. It's just a different attitude."

At the rally in Fresno, Mr. Bush also turned the vice president's own campaign promise against him.

"My opponent says 'You ain't seen nothing yet,' and we agree," Mr. Bush said. "We haven't seen nothing yet on Medicare reform, we haven't seen nothing yet on Social Security reform, we haven't seen nothing yet on the military reform, we haven't seen nothing yet on education reform. Here's our message: You had your chance, you have not led and we will."

The partisan crowd roared to the rafters and held up a multitude of three-fingered "W" signs that have sprouted at rallies lately.

California Republicans are polite and positive much like Mr. Reagan himself when asked if they see comparisons between the former president and Mr. Bush.

"I think Bush is going to win by a landslide, and in that way he will resemble Ronald Reagan," said Mary Lopez, a Republican committee representative from Walnut Creek.

The Bush campaign yesterday released the latest results of the Hispanic Trends Tracking Poll, conducted Oct. 23-28, that showed support for Mr. Bush has increased by eight points since its Oct. 5-7 survey. Mr. Bush's support rose from 25 percent to 33 percent; Mr. Gore polled 59 percent in the survey of 600 Hispanic voters, with a margin of error of four percentage points.

Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole lost the Hispanic vote by 51 percentage points. The Bush campaign said Mr. Bush has cut the gap by 25 points.

"As governor of Texas, George Bush reached out to the Hispanic community by enacting bipartisan reforms to improve public schools, strengthen families, and provide tax relief for millions of Texans, including Hispanic-owned businesses and homeowners," said Bush campaign Hispanic spokeswoman and outreach coordinator Sonia Colin.

Mr. Bush was pensive yesterday during his visit to the community shelter. As he toured the facility, he met 31-year-old Diminador Limosinero, who told Mr. Bush the program had been "a blessing."

"The Lord opened the door for me," he said. Mr. Limosinero cried as he told his story, and Mr. Bush comforted him by placing a hand on his shoulder.

"That's about as powerful a statement as you can get," Mr. Bush said.

Speaking to volunteers and supporters a few minutes later, Mr. Bush told his own story of recovery.

"I quit drinking in 1986 and haven't had a drop since then," he said. "It wasn't because of a government program in my case. I heard a higher calling."

The candidate began his campaign day on Halloween with reporters greeting him at his plane wearing Bush masks made of photographs.

"It's awfully frightening," he said.

Reporters also gave Mr. Bush a baseball jersey with the team name "Major League A's" on the front and "Big Time" on the back a reference to Mr. Bush's off-handed expletive for a New York Times reporter at a campaign rally.

"I'll cherish it," Mr. Bush said. "It may end up in the library."

The candidate flew later yesterday to campaign in Washington, where he also is competitive with Mr. Gore in part due to the third-party candidacy of liberal Ralph Nader of the Green Party.

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