Gore tour hits bumpy road

A hospital discharges his campaign, and the governor bashes his claims.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published June 15, 2000 7:01AM (EDT)

Al Gore bore good news, but found little mercy in the Pennsylvania leg of his "progress and prosperity" tour. Mercy Hospital abruptly canceled a Gore healthcare forum over his pro-choice views on abortion. According to the Scranton Times Tribune, Catholic Health Partners oversees Mercy Hospital, and board member Bishop James Timlin felt a Gore visit sent the wrong message about abortion. "It would look like we don't care that much about this issue," Timlin said. "We consider abortion to be an unspeakable crime."

The vice president's campaign quickly moved the event to another facility, and kept a civil -- even conciliatory -- tone when responding to the bishop. "Frankly, we have a different position on choice. We believe it should be safe, rare and legal," said campaign spokesman Chris Lehane. "But we do have a great deal of respect for the bishop's position and we don't want to do anything that would cause an issue with him."

Ridge rips Gore
Gore also got the cold shoulder from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Reuters reports. Though the vice president stuck to the high road, avoiding attacks and trumpeting the Clinton legacy, he still drew fire from Ridge, a Republican veep wannabe. "He's on his 'I-invented-prosperity' tour," said Ridge, borrowing the latest barb from the Bush camp. "What he (Gore) needs to understand is that the turnaround in Pennsylvania has everything to do with the people in Pennsylvania and not the people on Pennsylvania Avenue."

Bush running-mate rumors
There are signs that the Texas governor is closing in on a veep pick. The Associated Press reports that all the entries are in, and the Bush team is considering the best time for the announcement. But his campaign staff insists that Bush keeps his own counsel. "He has not discussed what he is thinking or who he thinks is a favorite or who he is inclined or not inclined to or anything like that," said campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes.

An early announcement has its advantages, in that Bush's running mate could rack up miles on the campaign trail before the convention. But that would eliminate the buzz factor. According to Hughes, "the biggest surprise of convention week or the biggest speculation frequently about convention week is who will be the vice president."

Richardson: Veep chance up in smoke?
On the Democratic side, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson was once on the shortlist for the bottom of Gore's ticket. But CNN reports that the latest Los Alamos security crisis and the resulting Republican rage could knock him out of the running. Richardson failed to show for a Senate hearing about the disappearance of two computer hard drives containing classified nuclear information from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. They were found missing in the wake of fires that swept through the New Mexico town and temporarily shut down the facility.

Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, accused Richardson of putting politics ahead of his duties. "I personally believe that if he had been doing his job as secretary of Energy in all aspects and not out running for vice president of the United States ... we might not be here today," Shelby said.

Nurses for Nader
The Green Party candidate, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, got a big boost from a prominent union. The California Nurses Association endorsed his candidacy, as a result of his "outspoken stance on behalf of an overhaul of the nation's health care system, and strong advocacy of nurses' and patients' rights." The nod may carry extra weight because Nader is running strongest in California, where some polls measure his support at 10 percent.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post June 8-11).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 44 (CNN/USA Today/Gallup June 6-7).
  • Bush 42 to Gore 41 (Zogby May 29-31).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 39 (CBS News/New York Times May 10-13).
  • Bush 51 to Gore 43 (Los Angeles Times May 4-7).

    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
  • Fred Thompson, 6 percent
  • Christine Todd Whitman, 5 percent
  • John Kasich, 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

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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