- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush returns to the campaign trail today with a retooled style and a renewed determination to win over female swing voters.
The Texas governor will visit Florida to talk about his prescription drug plan for seniors before heading to the West Coast later in the week to discuss education, two issues that aides say will help Mr. Bush close a double-digit deficit against Vice President Al Gore among women voters.
"A lot of swing voters are women, and by their nature that means they're volatile," said Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes. "We will continue to talk about issues that are important to women. Many women are worried about their parents and their health care, they're worried about their children and their education."
Mr. Bush will hold more intimate meetings with voters in coffee shops and other small venues, as he did on Friday, rather than speaking at large rallies. Advisers say the change will help focus the candidate's message that his proposals for tax cuts and prescription drugs will benefit "real people."
A Zogby/Reuters poll released last week showed female voters favoring Mr. Gore by 18 percentage points. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Sept. 2 showed Mr. Gore leading Mr. Bush by 24 points among women, 57 percent to 33 percent. Mr. Bush led among men in the same poll by a similarly wide margin, 55 percent to 37 percent.
The electoral contest remains tight. ABC News projected yesterday that Mr. Bush has 209 electoral votes in his column or leaning his way, while Mr. Gore has 201 electoral votes. The survey had 125 electoral votes as tossups in states such as Missouri, Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio; a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
Mrs. Hughes blamed Mr. Bush's gap in support from women on Mr. Gore, charging he misrepresented Mr. Bush's plan for prescription drugs.
Mr. Gore, meanwhile, will appear today on "Oprah," a talk show that is highly popular with women.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, said three days of campaigning with Mr. Bush last week in Pennsylvania convinced him the Republican nominee has righted his campaign.
"I think the momentum's already shifted," Mr. Ridge said on "Fox News Sunday." "I think if somebody's going to be worried about the poll results at the end of this week, it's Al Gore because he may have peaked and George is starting to move again."
On the campaign trail recently, some women said they still favor Mr. Bush over Mr. Gore on the issue of character.
"Who doesn't think that if Gore gets in there, he'll be having sleepovers with Clinton?" said Tera Suckman, the "Mrs. Missouri" title-holder. "I want [Mr. Clinton] out of the White House. He's proved to us over and over again that he's not worthy."
Mrs. Suckman, whose children attend a private Christian school, said she favors Mr. Bush because "he's for family values, he believes in faith-based education and he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. That's very important."
She said Mr. Gore's thick, detailed budget plan released last week scares her.
"Did you see that 200-page thing?" she said. "God knows how many new government programs are in there."
Katherine Mastrocola, a retiree in East McKeesport, Pa., said if she were advising Mr. Bush, "I'd say full speed ahead, save America."
"This is the hour that will decide where this country is going to go," Mrs. Mastrocola said. "I wake up scared to death, thinking what will happen if Al Gore is elected."
She also said Mr. Bush should take a more aggressive posture with the media, as when reporters pressed him last week to apologize for a vulgarity he used to describe a reporter.
"He should've said, 'I think a more important question is, how are we going to protect ourselves from China?' " Mrs. Mastrocola said. "You'll notice they didn't take any of those reporters [traveling with Mr. Bush] away in handcuffs, like they do in China."
The reporter to whom Mr. Bush was referring, Adam Clymer, wrote in the New York Times yesterday that he was "proud" of his article criticizing Texas' public health record.
"But if Mr. Bush did not like it, hey, it's a free country," Mr. Clymer wrote.

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