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Jewish World Review June 30, 2000 /27 Sivan, 5760

Morton Kondracke

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Consumer Reports

AlGore is down, but is he out? -- WHETHER HE'S PLAYING the populist or New Democrat, whether he's going negative or positive, the polling news just keeps getting worse for Vice President Al Gore.

In five national polls released over the past two weeks, Texas Gov. George W. Bush's (R) lead over Gore averaged 8.3 points, up from 5 points in April and May.

In results released last week, the Battleground survey showed Bush's lead at 12 points, up from 6 in May and 4 in March. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Bush leading by 8 points in June, compared with 5 in April. In March, Gore was ahead by 3 points.

The week before, the Zogby poll showed Bush up by nearly 8 points, compared to 1 in May. The Los Angeles Times showed Bush up by 10 percent, compared to 8 in May. Only the Washington Post/ABC News poll showed a 1-point narrowing of Bush's lead, from 5 points to 4.

The new polls do not take into account Gore's "prosperity tour," the death penalty controversy in Texas or the gasoline price spike, but it's difficult to see how any of this will improve Gore's position.

And a Justice Department investigator's recommendation that a special counsel be appointed to probe Gore's 1996 fundraising could be a serious threat even if Attorney General Janet Reno again refuses to make the appointment.

Politically speaking, the recommendation links Gore anew to ethical lapses that give President Clinton a personal disapproval rating of 64 percent in the Battleground poll.

Gore's "prosperity tour" is designed to accomplish important and necessary tasks: tie the Vice President to the country's current robust economy and bolster his standing with the Democratic base.

The problem is that news stories about Gore constantly seem to emphasize process - his various theme shifts, personal makeovers and changes in campaign management.

Gore did well in tapping cool-headed Commerce Secretary Bill Daley to replace abrasive ex-Rep. Tony Coehlo (D-Calif.) as his campaign manager, but the switch got more attention than Gore's message.

The new polls indicate Gore still has work to do in consolidating the Democratic base. In the Battleground survey, Bush has the support of 93 percent of Republicans, but Gore only has the support of 79 percent of Democrats.

Voters in union households and women are split almost evenly between Gore and Bush and self-identified "Reagan Democrats" favor Bush by 54 to 36 percent. Gore leads among Hispanics by 53 to 41 percent, but he is scoring about 10 percent below the usual performance for a Democrat.

To solidify the base, Gore has been sounding populist themes of late, blaming oil companies for the increase in gasoline prices and drug companies for the high cost of medicine.

Democrats are trying to tie Bush, a former oil man with industry contributors, to gas prices. But the link isn't clear and the price spike is just as easily pinned on Clinton-Gore energy and environmental policy.

Gore also has been making populist proposals. When he announced his estate tax reduction proposal, he said the Republican alternative would "give a massive tax break to the wealthiest Americans." His other tax cuts and his "retirement savings plus" proposal are skewed heavily toward lower-income Americans.

The major theme of Gore's "prosperity tour" is positive - that "discipline has been essential to the prosperity we have today" and that he wants "to make this election about the big choices we have to make to secure prosperity and progress."

If anyone is listening, these are messages Gore needs to pound home. Right now, according to the Battleground survey, voters believe by a margin of 47 to 35 percent that Bush is better able to keep the country prosperous.

Somehow, Gore has got to make his long experience in national office a decisive factor for voters. He leads Bush in this category by 50 to 38 percent in the Battleground survey and by 40 to 31 percent in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

But the NBC poll indicated that experience is currently the third most important quality voters are looking for in a president - and Bush holds huge leads in the first two, trustworthiness and leadership ability.

In both polls, Bush holds a 12-point lead over Gore on the question of who can be trusted to do the right thing. Asked which candidate has stronger leadership qualities, Bush leads by 55 to 30 percent in the Battleground survey and 46 to 25 percent in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Bush presumably bolstered his leadership lead by calmly handling the Gary Graham death penalty controversy in Texas, even if there was reason to think the convicted killer deserved a reprieve because his trial lawyer represented him badly.

The constant refrain of the Gore campaign is that voters - especially Democrats - are busy with summer concerns and are not focused on politics. But at the moment, Gore shows no signs he knows how to give them a wake-up call.

JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


06/27/00: Social programs caught in election-year game of one-up
06/22/00: Congress Is Near Flunking a Test On School Reform
06/16/00: Doting on the grandparents
06/13/00: On Stem Cells, Bush Has Wrong Pro-Life Stance
06/08/00: Has Gore Caught Bush?
05/26/00: PNTR Vote Could Tell Which Party Fits 'New Economy'
05/23/00: The secret to winning the election: Economic programs
05/18/00: Gore should regroup
05/16/00: McCain's Support Is Tepid, But Lets Bush Focus on Gore
05/11/00: Voters need wonk training
05/09/00: Bush Could Score With Charge That Gore's Too Partisan
04/28/00: Reno's force aids Clinton, not Elian
04/25/00: Should Clinton be indicted?
04/24/00: Can Gore win on Bush tax cuts?
04/18/00: Levin's 'bridge' key to China trade?
04/11/00: Congress, U.S. Voters Still Aren't Ready For Campaign Reform
04/06/00: Bush, Gore Silent As Popular Culture Gets Ever Coarser
03/30/00: Is 2000 Like 1948, 1976 or 1960? Or Is This Unparalleled?
03/28/00: Will Bush, Gore Go for a Better Way To Pick Nominees?
03/23/00: Medicare cutbacks bleed hospitals
03/20/00: Chances Improve That China Trade Will Pass Congress
03/16/00: Lieberman as veep would help Gore
03/14/00: Can Bush, McCain Unite to Beat Gore?
03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
03/07/00: What accounts for McCain's excesses?
03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
02/29/00: Surprises! The 2000 GOP race is full of it
02/25/00: Voters want centrist in White House
02/23/00: Gore would hit McCain's record
02/15/00: Will negativity hurt McCain in S.C.?
02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?
01/20/00: Big New Surplus Estimates Could Alter 2000 Politics
12/21/99: Bush improves, everyone panders
12/16/99: Prospects improve for campaign reform
12/14/99: Riots raise free trade as 2000 issue
12/10/99: Gore won GOP 'debate' in N.H.
12/07/99: Election pits Bush cuts vs. Medicare boost
12/03/99: Can race be a constructive issue in 2000?
11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
11/16/99: Where is Bush on health care fight?
11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
11/09/99: Is GOP isolationist, or just partisan?
11/04/99: Gore, Bradley Run Opposite Races On Style, Substance
11/01/99: GOP, Clinton could reach deal swiftly
10/27/99: Bush to fight 'culture wars' -- positively
10/21/99: Porter, Mack: heroes on medical research
10/19/99: Gore scores among party big shots, but polls go South
10/14/99: Bush critiques could help GOP Congress
10/12/99: Congress can save health care from ruin
10/07/99: Will gun-control cause the GOP to shoot itself in the foot?
10/05/99: Gore moves: Desperate but necessary
10/01/99: Fox, Armstrong make case for NIH
09/28/99: Dems' race brightens Bush's chances
09/23/99: East Timor deflates `Clinton Doctrine'
09/21/99: Buchanan v. Bush? Yeah right
09/17/99: Candidates turn attention to poverty
09/15/99: Bush's education problem
09/09/99: Budget makes 2000 an `issues' election
09/07/99:Airport rage increases, with good reason
09/02/99: U.S. future up for grabs in 2000
08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
08/19/99: Neither party has upper hand for '99
08/17/99: Ford gets freedom medal one month early
08/12/99: There's time to catch Bush, say Gore aides
08/10/99: Rudy, Hillary try much-needed makeovers
08/09/99: GOP must launch new probe of Chinagate
08/02/99: Pols blow fiscal smoke on budget surplus
08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals

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