Gore closes poll gap

The latest surveys show the vice president gaining ground as he begins promoting anti-crime measures.


Alicia Montgomery
July 19, 2000 2:14AM (UTC)

Al Gore has received a sunnier forecast from new public opinion surveys. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll reports that the major presidential candidates are now neck and neck, with George W. Bush leading Gore 48 to 46 percent in a two-way race, a difference that falls within the 4 percent margin of error. When third-party candidates are factored in, the gap remains close, with Bush at 45 percent, Gore at 43 and Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan scoring 5 and 3 percent support respectively.

A CBS News poll also shows a tighter race, with Bush scoring 43 percent to Gore's 41 percent, with a 4 percent margin of error. However, the same survey suggests that the vice president would suffer in a four-way race, with his support slipping to 37 percent, compared to Bush's 42 percent, when Nader and Buchanan were added to the list of voters' choices. In the four-way poll, the Green Party and Reform Party hopefuls were even at 4 percent each.

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Football to take a TV timeout
The preseason pigskin parade will march to the beat of the political conventions after all. According to USA Today, ABC has rescheduled the broadcast of two of its exhibition Monday night football games, scheduling them for an hour earlier to accommodate greater coverage of the first night of the Democratic and Republican conventions. The network was motivated not by civic duty but by the potential ratings boost during speeches by President Clinton and Gen. Colin Powell, each now tentatively scheduled for Monday nights. The National Football League "graciously agreed" to kick off the affected games at 7 p.m. Pacific time instead of 8. CBS is following ABC's lead, promising to run one hour of coverage on the first three nights of each convention and two hours on the final night. NBC will relegate most of its convention coverage to its cable twin, MSNBC.

Gore joins the bill club
The vice president has made his contribution to the "bill of rights" glut, proposing a new constitutional amendment to protect the interests of crime victims, according to Reuters. "I am proposing a Crime Victims Bill of Rights -- so our justice system puts victims and families first," Gore declared in a Tennessee speech. "I'm not satisfied when accused criminals have all kinds of rights, but victims don't always have rights that are protected and guaranteed." Some believe that Gore's enthusiasm for victims' rights should have come last year, when legislation similar to his new plan died of neglect in the Senate. Said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., "Exactly one year ago, Al Gore said he would lead the fight for victims' rights, and then we didn't hear from him."

Labor's love (or money) goes to Gore
The vice president has heard a lot from unions, a key part of the Democratic coalition, much of it criticism of his trade policies. But that hasn't kept labor from paying its dues to the party. According to the Washington Post, the latest numbers from the Federal Election Commission show that labor unions have given $15 million so far to candidates this election cycle, almost all of it to Democrats, a sharp increase over the amount unions spent on political donations in 1996. Many of the gifts have been unregulated soft money, much of which will be used to fund issue ads and voter outreach for Gore.

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Say hello to Hollywood
Gore has been getting big bucks from a more glamorous industry, too. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the Democrat boasts 17 Oscar winners on his donor list, including Jack Nicholson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert De Niro and even Hollywood conservative Kevin Costner. Gore has also picked up celebrity bucks in Bush's backyard. Actor Larry Hagman, who played villainous oilman J.R. Ewing in the long-running nighttime soap "Dallas," has also donated to Gore.

But the vice president won't stop there. Reportedly, Gore's campaign team is trying to raid the more modest star stable backing Nader, which is headlined by Paul Newman, members of Pearl Jam and country singer Willie Nelson. Though Bush doesn't have many big names on his Hollywood donor marquee, he has raised $688,000 in Tinseltown, close to Gore's $880,000 and well more than Nader's paltry $22,000.

Gore rallies the troops
His new poll numbers notwithstanding, the Democratic candidate is playing up his underdog tag to invigorate his campaign team, Reuters reports. "Let's win this thing," Gore cried out to his staff at their Nashville, Tenn., headquarters, proclaiming his candidacy to be the last, best hope for America on a long list of issues. "The Supreme Court ... our environment ... our public schools ... the rights of women and minorities ... our healthcare system are all at stake," Gore said. The vice president also used his Nashville visit to consult aides on maximizing his post-convention "bounce," the public opinion surge most candidates experience after formally being nominated.

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Bush raids enemy turf
The Republican candidate took a campaign swing through Clinton country and threatened to snatch Arkansas away from the Democrats in November. According to the Associated Press, Bush declared, "I'm going to win this state" during an appearance in Little Rock. The Texas governor is making a play for other states won by President Clinton, such as Missouri and Ohio, continuing his attack on Gore's base of support. Publicly, the vice president's team was unimpressed by Bush's trash talking. "He can go in any direction he wants to in terms of his travel, but he better explain to the American people why he wants the country to change course and take the country on a right-wing U-turn, which is what his policies represent," Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said.

Hillary Clinton's friends fight slur report
Few of the first lady's Jewish supporters are backing off in light of allegations that she called someone a "fucking Jew bastard" more than two decades ago. New York Newsday reports that her allies in that community question the reliability of the charge, as well as its relevance in the Senate race. "Nothing in her 26-year record in public life indicates that she is a bigot, prejudiced or an anti-Semite," said Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League. "If she did say it, it's unacceptable and intolerable, but at the same time, one statement does not an anti-Semite make." Former New York Mayor Ed Koch agreed. "Even if she did [say it], it's 26 years ago and there's not a pattern. This is all garbage, and the statute of limitations applies."

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More politically conservative Jewish leaders, many of whom distrust Clinton and accuse her of pro-Palestinian bias, weren't so ready to forgive and forget. "We're outraged by her remarks and her pattern of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish comments and actions," said Joseph Frager, president of the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, a group that supports Jewish settlements in historically Arab sections of Jerusalem.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 48 to Gore 46 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup July 14-16).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 41 (CBS News July 13-16).
  • Bush 46 to Gore 40 (Fox News July 12-13).
  • Bush 45 to Gore 41 (Zogby July 14-17).
  • Gore 46 to Bush 45 (Newsweek June 29-30).
  • Bush 40 to Gore 39 (Associated Press June 21-25).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 3 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup July 14-16).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 4 (CBS News July 14-16).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 3 (Zogby July 14-17).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 2 (Newsweek June 29-30).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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