Dead heat in presidential poll

Gore gets a big convention bounce, the Democrats get religion, Al III gets busted and Gingrich gets hitched.

By Alicia Montgomery
Published August 21, 2000 3:21PM (EDT)

Al Gore got what he wanted out of Los Angeles: A bounce high enough to close the gap with Republican contender George W. Bush. The latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows the race at a statistical dead heat, with Gore scoring 47 percent support to Bush's 46 percent. Ralph Nader earned 3 percent with Pat Buchanan at 2 percent. Gore gained the most ground with women and independent voters. The Democrat now enjoys a Clinton-sized gender gap, with 58 percent of women pledging their support for Gore, compared to 36 percent who favor Bush. Gore pulled even with Bush among independents, garnering 43 percent of those voters, a 10 percent jump since the pre-convention period. The poll has a 3 point margin of error.

A Newsweek survey had even better news for Gore, showing him with a 48 to 42 post-convention advantage over Bush, with a 4 point margin of error.

Rolling on a river
The new Gore wowed crowds up and down the Mississippi River, according to the Christian Science Monitor, stumping without a script and pushing a populist message. "Don't tell me there aren't families out there having a tough time, who want more time with their children and their family, who are having trouble with car payments and house payments," Gore said. Ever since the vice president's acceptance speech, the GOP has charged him with inciting class warfare, but Democrats insist that's not the case. "Working families isn't a code word for poor people," said Gore advisor Greg Simon. "There are plenty of middle- and upper-middle-class families who are fighting urban sprawl, who are trying to raise their kids in a culture of guns, who worry about healthcare for their parents and education for their kids." But Republicans are warning that Gore's strategy is risky. "He's trying to do the old populist Democratic spiel," says California GOP strategist Allan Hoffenblum. "At the same time, he's trying to appeal to more moderate independents -- the entrepreneurs. He's trying to get it both ways, and it'll be interesting to see if he can pull it off."

Both sides practice faith-full politics
Old-style populism isn't the only revival taking place this election cycle. Michael Barone, writing for US News and World Report, explores why both parties are resurrecting religion as an appropriate point of discussion on the campaign trail. Barone finds that the Republicans, party of Christian conservatives, backed away from routinely making references to God during their Philadelphia convention. "Bush strategists seemed to be acting out of caution lest too many voters be put off by religious references," Barone writes. But Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman have less to lose with the piety push. "As the more secular party, Democrats may seem less likely to foist religion on others, and no one in this country fears an establishment of Orthodox Judaism." All the same, Barone admonishes the Democrats not to go overboard, as American voters may reach their sanctimony saturation point. Barone concludes, "Candidates will learn by trial and error how much voters want to hear about their personal religious beliefs."

Dixie Dems desert Gore
The Southern Dems don't show much evidence of personal belief in Gore's candidacy. The New York Times reports that the vice president has gotten only luke-warm support among members of his own party in his home region, with Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, North Carolina gubernatorial hopeful Mike Easley and South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges each skipping Gore-Lieberman appearances in their states. This could change with Gore's poll numbers on the rise, as much of the kooky playings stems from Gore's lack of popularity in the region. "It always happens, and you can bet it's going to happen in this year's races -- the Republicans are going to try to tie the state Democrats to the unpopular head of the national party," said Bill Moore, a professor of political science at the College of Charleston. "From their point of view, it's just pragmatic politics to appear as independent from Gore as they can be."

Gore's son speeds to court
A young Democrat could lose some of his independence -- at least as far as driving is concerned. The Associated Press reports that the younger Gore had been arrested in North Carolina on Aug. 12 for driving close to 100 mph. He was driving back to Washington from the family's vacation spot. Neither the vice president nor his wife, Tipper, plans to comment publicly on the incident. According to Tipper spokeswoman Camille Johnston, "The Gores are dealing with this as a family matter." The arrest could cost Al III his driver's license.

Gingrich takes his third time out
In addition to being a lecturer, commentator and a full-time boogeyman for the Democrats, Newt Gingrich is also a new husband. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that 150 guests witnessed Gingrich marry former mistress Calista Bisek at a Virginia church Friday. It was her first marriage and his third. Gingrich's second marriage ended in a divorce, caused in part by his affair with Bisek.

On the trail
Buchanan: No public events
Bush: Wisconsin, Iowa
Gore: Missouri, Illinois
Nader: California

Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Gore 47 to Bush 46 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Aug. 18-19). Gore 48 to Bush 42 (Newsweek Aug. 18).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 39 (Los Angeles Times Aug. 11-13).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 40 (Reuters/Zogby Aug. 11-13).
  • Bush 54 to Gore 40 (Washington Post/ABC News Aug. 4-6).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 38 (Newsweek Aug. 3-4).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 34 ( Aug. 1-2).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 2 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Aug. 18-19)
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 2 (Los Angeles Times Aug. 11-13).
  • Nader 7 to Buchanan 2 (Reuters/Zogby Aug. 11-13).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 4 (Washington Post/ABC News Aug. 4-6).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 1 (Newsweek Aug. 3-4).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 2 ( Aug. 1-2).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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