- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

George W. Bush pulled ahead in a new nationwide poll released yesterday, with his biggest gains coming among women a group the Texas governor targeted last week with appearances on two popular daytime talk shows.
A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll of 718 likely voters taken Friday through Sunday found Mr. Bush with a three-point lead, 47 percent to 44 percent. The poll found the Republican presidential candidate had gained 10 points among women since the middle of last week and narrowed Mr. Gore's lead from double-digits to just four points.
Republican campaign pollster John McLaughlin attributed the Bush surge in part to Mr. Bush's "regaining the women voters he had in the spring and summer, the ones who thought he was a good, strong leader and family person. They liked his ideas on taxes and Social Security and his saying he would restore honesty and integrity in the White House."
A host of other polls released yesterday and over the weekend show Mr. Bush either leading or trailing by an amount within the survey's margin of error. Mr. Gore's biggest lead two points is in a Newsweek poll with a four-point margin of error.
But even that was bad news for the vice president the same poll conducted only a week ago had him up 13 points.
"It's a reflection of the governor's policies, the fact that voters are paying attention to his substantive message," said Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer.
Mr. Gore yesterday dismissed the findings and those of all polls, past, present and future.
"The polls are just a series of snapshots that are very misleading… . I really think that polls are overemphasized… . It really gets too much attention in the press," Mr. Gore said on NBC's "Today" show.
Independent pollster John Zogby released his latest survey yesterday of 1,003 likely voters, which showed Mr. Bush ahead 44 percent to 42 percent.
"I'd call it a surge for Bush," Mr. Zogby said. Both the daytime TV stars with which Mr. Bush appeared last week Oprah Winfrey and Regis Philbin have big audiences of women. "Even more important than the women who watched were the reverberations from all the news broadcasts about the show."
"Basically, he is reaching moms, consolidating support among men and doing better in $25,000 to $50,000 income group," Mr. Zogby said. "This is the result of his being on message.
"Bush does best in getting swing voters when he talks about things that have worked for him in the past, like 'compassionate conservatism.' For some reason, he seemed to drop it for about three weeks, but it's certainly what he conveyed on Oprah."
Republican pollster Ed Goeas agreed.
"Bush is doing better because he is running his own campaign again, talking about the issues he thinks are important and not responding to the things Gore was trying to bog him down in," said Mr. Goeas.
Another reason for the Bush resurgence, in Mr. McLaughlin's view, is that the Republican candidate since last week has begun to "maximize his conservative base and expose Gore's positions on the left. By doing that, he also exposes Gore's character weaknesses, his liberal positions and his dishonesty."
One measure of the Bush advance is the contrast with Mr. Zogby's earlier polling. His Sept. 10-12 survey had the vice president leading 46 percent to 39 percent. By Sept. 17-19, Mr. Bush had narrowed the Gore edge to 45 percent to 41 percent in the Zogby poll.
"His appearances on 'Oprah' and 'Philbin' presented positive images that trumped anything negative from [earlier] the essence of a good week for Bush," Mr. Zogby said.
Republicans noted that Mr. Bush's campaign has shown a new energy and focus. For nearly two weeks, he has responded to Mr. Gore's initiatives and attacks with the rapidity that sympathetic critics earlier complained was lacking.
"The fact is that for the last 12 days we have dominated the news," said Republican National Committee spokesman William Pascoe. "The press coverage began to turn on [Sept. 13]. The Gore campaign can argue that on one or two days they battled us to a draw, but there was no single day where they won flat out."
Mr. Zogby earlier had predicted a Bush comeback. "After a dismal three weeks after the party conventions [in August], he was down in my polling only six or seven points, not 15 points [in some other polls]," he recalled. "I said back then that he ought to be able to make it a tight race by getting back on message. And he did."
Not all the latest polling confirms the Bush surge. In Scott Rasmussen's latest Portrait of American tracking poll of 2,250 likely voters, Mr. Bush has a one-point lead, 42 percent to 41 percent, down from a five-point Bush lead a month ago.
Better news for Mr. Bush is a Sept. 20 Rasmussen poll of likely Florida voters. It has a Bush-Gore dead heat at 43 percent each, compared with the Aug. 27 Rasmussen poll that had Mr. Gore ahead 48 percent to 40 percent. The poll has a four point error margin.
The Rasmussen tracking of electoral college votes in the states since both parties' conventions shows Mr. Gore with a slight lead, 213-210, with the remaining 114 ranked as tossups. Mr. Bush has 121 votes solidly for him and another 89 leaning his way, the poll found, while Mr. Gore has only 52 solidly for him with another 161 leaning toward him.
Mr. Bush's campaign has pulled its ads from Illinois, which Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove once described as a key battleground state, but the Texas governor continues to campaign in California, to the consternation of some Bush supporters who think the expensive effort there is hopeless. But Mr. Rasmussen's state polling shows a significant difference between the two states. His Sept. 18 Illinois poll showed Mr. Bush trailing in Illinois by 12 points, but a Sept. 21 Rasmussen poll of likely California voters found Mr. Bush only six points behind Mr. Gore.

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