Jewish World Review April 24, 2000 /19 Nissan, 5760
Bush tax cuts?
In a memo released last week, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville confirmed what public polls also show -- that Bush holds a 5-point lead among likely voters and is liked better as a person.
Last week, the Bush campaign, reviewing 28 public polls published since March 1, asserted that Bush's lead has widened from an average of 1.4 points last month to 5.7 points in April.
In a poll last month, Greenberg and his partner, Al Quinlan, also found that on a test of how warmly voters feel toward the two candidates, Bush rated 50.5 and Gore, 46.3. Some GOP pollsters think that the election will be decided more on perceptions of the candidates' personal "attributes" than on issues.
The ex-Clinton strategists clearly do not agree. "If the Democrats remain on the offensive," they wrote, "there are very good reasons to believe this election will shift Democratic -- though probably late in the cycle, maybe even in October."
To win both the presidential and congressional election, Carville and Greenberg wrote, Democrats have to attack GOP tax cuts, emphasize education, Medicare and health issues, and be more reassuring to voters on values.
"The massive Bush-Republican tax cut is the single biggest thematic advantage available to Democrats in 2000," their memo advised. "They should never lose sight of it."
In their poll, Greenberg and Quinlan tested several attack lines against Bush and found that the one with the most impact was: "Bush wants to spend the lion's share of the budget surplus on a massive, $1.8 trillion tax cut. That will leave almost no money to invest in education, protect Medicare and retire the national debt."
Variations on the tax-cut theme -- including charges that most cuts would go to the wealthy and would preclude a prescription-drug benefit for seniors and health insurance for children -- beat out all other attack lines.
When voters were told that both candidates would use the budget surplus to protect Social Security, then were asked to choose between Bush's tax cut "for American families" and Gore's "investments" in education and Medicare, voters preferred Gore's position, 52 percent to 43 percent.
After taxes, attacks on Bush's "opposition to gun safety," his health policies and his Texas environmental record had the most power, the Clintonites declared.
Carville and Greenberg are not involved in the Gore campaign, but the veep and his strategists obviously have similar views on how to win, judging by Gore's constant assaults on Bush's "risky tax scheme."
Gore claims that the Bush tax cut actually would cost $2.1 trillion over 10 years. Gore strategist Bob Shrum said, "This will use up the non-Social Security surplus and either require cuts in education and health, create a deficit, or make it necessary to invade the Social Security surplus. Bush can't decide which petard to sit on."
Bush's campaign manager, Karl Rove, says that the $2.1 trillion figure is "ridiculous, but we're going to let (Gore) exaggerate it and clobber him with it later."
It's not clear how that will happen. Even Bush aides acknowledge that some spending cuts will be needed to make the tax cuts fit into the surplus, and they haven't identified the cuts.
According to Greenberg, Gore can win on issues, but Democrats are running behind on "values," having become identified with "permissiveness" as a result of Clinton's impeachment.
As a result, Bush and Gore are tied among women voters, Bush leads by 19 points among white seniors, and Democrats trail by 25 points among white married voters.
To recoup, the Greenberg-Carville memo suggests that Gore decry the loss of respect for rules among young people and emphasize smaller, safer classrooms and more discipline in schools.
By 52 percent to 34 percent, that message trumps a Bush theme based on moral decline among leaders and more emphasis on religion as an answer.
One GOP pollster, Frank Luntz, dismisses all emphasis on issues and themes. "Gore is at a hopeless disadvantage because attributes count more than issues," says Luntz. "He can't re-cast himself as someone who says what he thinks and does as he says."
But Greenberg contends that Bush is dropping on "attributes" -- basically because people think he's "not up to the job."
All told, the evidence suggests an uphill climb for Gore. When he did the right thing and said that little Elian Gonzalez should have a chance to stay in the United States, his poll numbers dropped. The public believes Gore's a
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