Jewish World Review May 18, 2000 /13 Iyar, 5760
The latest evidence came last week from the bipartisan Battleground, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post/ABC News polls, showing Bush leading Gore by 6, 8 and 5 points, respectively.
In January, before the presidential primaries, Bush was leading in the Battleground poll by 16 points, and his average lead in 15 other national polls was 11 points, according to a tabulation by the American Enterprise Institute.
In March, as the primary season was ending, Battleground showed Bush's lead down to 4 points, and Bush's average lead in 14 other polls was just 1 point. In four of the polls, including the Post's, Gore actually led by as much as 6 points.
Since March, though, Bush has widened his lead in practically every survey, as the three polls show. Among those most likely to vote, Battleground shows Bush's lead at 8 points.
Moreover, most polls show that Bush has regained a small lead among women -- a group President Clinton carried by 16 percent in 1996. He now has a whopping lead of 14 points among married women in the L.A. Times poll and 19 in Battleground.
In the Times poll, Bush leads by 16 points among independents, half of whom find Gore too liberal, and the Battleground survey found that Bush carries Reagan Democrats by 14 points.
And Battleground found that 56 percent of voters have a favorable attitude toward Bush to 35 percent unfavorable -- a 21-point difference -- indicating that Gore's incessant attacks have not been working. Gore gets a 50-42 favorable-unfavorable rating.
Even though Gore is in much better shape than he was six months ago, when he decisively shook up his campaign to meet the challenge of ex-Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., the polls suggest there is still something essentially wrong with Gore's appeal.
One moderate Democratic analyst said "to begin with, Al Gore is not gifted in his ability to connect with voters. On top of that, his message consists of focus-group-tested bromides that just reinforce his image as a political calculating machine.
"His campaign seems to consist of just two things -- attacking Bush and protecting the priorities of old Democratic constituencies. In the process, he's turning off all the swing constituencies that Bill Clinton enticed into the Democratic fold," this critic said. "I'd say there needs to be some strategic reassessment."
To be fair, Gore has departed from Democratic orthodoxy on education within the past week, delivering a speech to the Michigan Education Association in which he called for tough new accountability standards and merit pay for teachers.
However, on Medicare and Social Security, Gore insists on defending the existing structure of the entitlement programs, merely adding more money instead of calling for fundamental reform.
Gore has sought to inject some fun into his campaign in the past week -- at a majority-Latino school in California and before the Anti-Defamation League -- but mainly his speeches are heavy-handed assaults on Bush.
To define himself as a centrist, Gore would do well to pick a New Democrat as his vice presidential running mate, someone like Sens. Evan Bayh, Ind., Joe Lieberman, Conn., or Bob Graham, Fla. or Gov. Gray Davis of California.
The choice of Lieberman or Graham would be complicated, though, by the fact that the governors of their states are Republicans, and Senate Democrats would lose a seat. The same problem applies to liberal Sen. Richard Durbin, Ill.
Perhaps hardest of all, Gore needs to figure out how to define and handle the "moral" issue that's causing 49 percent of voters to say the country is "on the wrong track" compared to 39 percent who say it's "going in the right direction," according to Battleground.
The survey found that 62 percent of voters disapprove of Clinton as a person, compared to 29 percent who approve of him. There's probably more than that causing concern about moral decline -- a factor that decisively favors Bush.
Gore aides insist, despite the numbers, that all's well with their game plan -- that the Veep is running well in key states and that the flaws in Bush's program eventually will be obvious to an electorate that isn't paying attention yet.
Maybe so, but Gore surely should be looking for ways to cause people to vote for him, not just against Bush. Right now, that's not their natural
05/16/00: McCain's Support Is Tepid, But Lets Bush Focus on Gore