Gore's personal problem

Voters say he's good on issues but bad on personality. Bush banks on sunny days ahead for Social Security, and Republicans want Giuliani's decision now.

Published May 16, 2000 9:25AM (EDT)

Al Gore beats George W. Bush on the top issues, but voters just don't like him as much. That's the conclusion of a New York Times/CBS News poll showing Bush leading Gore 47 to 39 percent, with a four-point margin of error. The New York Times reports that Americans find the vice president indecisive and weak. "Al Gore acts as if he's not sure what he's thinking, as if he doesn't have a mind of his own," said Democrat Vera Jeane, who sees Bush as the stronger candidate. Independent voter Ken Bogler agrees. "Gore has not really shown a lot of leadership qualities or abilities to be in a position to run our nation," Bogler said. "It's a presence, really. The way he carries himself, the way he speaks, does not seem presidential."

While Bush did top Gore 63 to 53 percent on possessing "strong leadership qualities," Gore got more points for feeling your pain. Sixty-one percent of respondents agreed that the vice president "cares about your needs and problems," compared with only 52 percent who believed the same of Bush. Neither man scored high for truth telling, with only 39 percent of voters finding either Bush or Gore "more honest" than other politicians.

In some good news for the vice president, Americans largely agreed with him that Bush's tax plan is risky and that a Bush White House would roll out the welcome wagon for the National Rifle Association. Gore was also seen as better suited to handle reform of Social Security, health care and education, the issues that Americans care about most.

Bush gets an A for effort, a C for math

The Texas governor debuted his plan for Social Security reform to mixed reviews. According to the Washington Post, several experts believe Bush's proposal to let younger workers play the stock market with Social Security money could break the bank. Olivia S. Mitchell, a professor of insurance and risk management at the Wharton School, praises Bush's courage in trying to fix the system, but says his plan won't work. "There is no chance," Mitchell said, that Bush's numbers will add up because his proposal's solvency depends on perpetual sunshine on Wall Street. Peter Orszag, a former Clinton advisor who is now president of a firm that analyses pension systems, estimated that payroll taxes would fall short of covering benefits as soon as 2005 under the Bush plan. "He's going to quickly run out of money," Orszag said. Even Bush's economic advisor, Lawrence Lindsey, acknowledges that Bush's Social Security plan would devour the cash surplus in a few years, and might start nibbling into general revenue by 2030.

"Little birdie" brings Bush stock tip

Bush has taken a page from the vice president's rapid-response book. After Gore predictably bashed Bush's Social Security plan, the Republican hopeful shot back with charges of hypocrisy, according to the Associated Press. "Al Gore, who calls these bipartisan proposals risky, has a substantial amount of his money invested in the stock market," Bush said. Gore spokesman Chris Lehane denied that the vice president owns any stock, and said Bush must've gotten the story from the same "little birdie" that incorrectly advised him that Gore was a member of the NRA.

Rudy indecisive, Republicans out of patience

The little birdies telling Rudy Giuliani to hurry up and decide whether to continue his Senate run are members of his own flock. The New York Times reports that members of the New York GOP are sick of Giuliani's public pondering of his marital problems, his health and their effect on his race with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Although Giuliani last said he is "very much inclined" to continue and will have a final decision soon, that's not quick enough for many state Republicans. "We need a decision," said Stephen Minarik, party chair for Monroe County. "Like tomorrow would be nice. Because this is getting ridiculous." James Cavanaugh, Minarik's counterpart in Westchester County, agreed. "There's a recognition that if we're going to go to a new candidate, we have to start yesterday," he said. "We need a pretty fast answer from the mayor as to whether he's in or out."

Congress' dot-com press

Back on Capitol Hill, legislators have started treating Internet companies like other businesses: pandering to them one minute and squeezing them for money the next. Michael Kinsley writes in his Washington Post column that House Republican Dick Armey presented an "eContract 2000" to Internet business leaders that includes "some flattering blather plus 10 bits of hard-core pandering." Poking fun at the eContract's tidbit tax credits and boundless "blah, blah, blah" about the Internet's future, Kinsley welcomes the attention. "Speaking, if I may, for all cyberworkers and cyberbosses, we could always use another tax credit or three, even though we hate government and politicians as much as the next guys," Kinsley writes. "Internet to Congress: Pander away."

Relations between the Web industry and Senate Republicans, however, aren't quite so cordial. In a separate article, the Washington Post reports that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has been telling tech firms to ante up for Michigan Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham, who faces a tough race against Democrat Debbie Stabenow. Abraham supports expanding the number of foreign nationals that high-tech firms can hire, thus making his reelection a natural crusade for the industry. But tech lobbyists think that Lott went too far in pressing companies to fund Americans for Job Security, a nonprofit group that plans to run anti-Stabenow ads. "There were a number of people who took offense," one lobbyist said.

Poll positions

Presidential race (previous):

  • Bush 47 to Gore 39 (CBS News/New York Times May 10-13).

  • Bush 49 to Gore 44 (ABC News/Washington Post May 7-10).

  • Bush 51 to Gore 43 (Los Angeles Times May 4-7).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 45 (Pew Center May 2-6).

  • Bush 48 to Gore 42 (Voter.com May 1-3).

  • Bush 46 to Gore 41 (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1).

  • Bush 49 to Gore 44 (Gallup/CNN/USA Today April 28-30).

  • Bush 47 to Gore 38 (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll April 26-27).

    Vice presidential preferences (previous):

    Preferences for Republican vice presidential candidate among Republican voters (NBC/Wall Street Journal April 29-May 1):

  • Colin Powell, 39 percent
  • Elizabeth Dole, 19 percent
  • John McCain, 18 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 5 percent
  • Fred Thompson, 6 percent
  • John Kaisch, 4 percent
  • Tom Ridge, 3 percent
  • Other, 1 percent
  • Not sure, 5 percent

    Preferences for Democratic vice presidential candidate among all voters (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll March 22-23):

  • Bill Bradley, 27 percent
  • Dianne Feinstein, 10 percent
  • Bob Kerrey, 6 percent
  • Bob Graham, 5 percent
  • John Kerry, 4 percent
  • Bill Richardson, 4 percent
  • Evan Bayh, 3 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not sure, 35 percent

    New York Senate:

  • Clinton 46 to Giuliani 44 (Quinnipiac College April 24-30).

  • Clinton 43 to Giuliani 43 (Zogby April 28-29).

  • Clinton 52 to Giuliani 42 (New York Times/CBS News April 1-5).

  • Giuliani 46 to Clinton 43 (Marist Institute March 27-28).

    On the trail

    Bush: Oregon.

    Gore: Tennessee and New York.

    Nader: Massachusetts.

    Sound off

    E-mail Trail Mix with your comments, suggestions and tips at alicia@salon.com.

  • By Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

    MORE FROM Alicia Montgomery

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