Bush battles back in polls

His appearance on "Oprah" wins women's support. Gore's staff makes a molehill into a mountain, and Lazio and Clinton just say no to soft money.



Alicia Montgomery
September 25, 2000 4:06PM (UTC)

What a difference a week makes. It was just that recently that Al Gore seemed to be pulling away from George W. Bush in the polls. But not anymore. Reuters reports that the latest public opinion surveys show that the Texas governor has caught up to the vice president, and that the race is back at a dead heat. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll finds that 47 percent of voters now support Bush, compared with 46 percent for Gore. The Green Party's Ralph Nader is now tied with Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan at 1 percent. The survey has a four-point margin of error. Less than a week ago, the same poll showed Gore ahead by 10 points.

The vice president's campaign was largely dismissive of the new numbers. "I think what you are seeing in your poll may be a reflection of a couple of days of him attempting to talk about the issues," said Gore spokesman Mark Fabiani. But voters may be responding to a series of Bush attacks on the vice president's character. Certainly, politicians will never in the future underestimate Oprah power in light of the recent surveys. Since Bush appeared on her program, Gore's advantage among women has plummeted from double digits to four points.

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For Gore, a bad-news week
Bush has stolen a once-sure source of consolation from the vice president. Even the most recent poll from Newsweek shows Gore with a slim 47 to 45 percent lead over Bush. Nader scored 3 percent and Buchanan failed to reach 1 percent. The survey has a three-point margin of error. Bush made big gains among minority voters, women and young people. This is no doubt a nasty surprise for the vice president, considering that that magazine's polls usually record the highest pro-Gore numbers of all the major public opinion surveys, and last week showed him ahead by 14 points.

Dirty trickster or staff twit?
One of the unwelcome distractions dragging down Gore's run is a new wrinkle in the Bush campaign leak story. Weeks before documents and a tape from the Texas governor's headquarters landed at Gore's command center, Michael Doyne, a young aide to the vice president's campaign, had bragged to a friend that there was a mole in Bush's operation. After ABC News revealed the incident, Doyne was suspended from his post, and held a Sunday press conference to say he had made the whole thing up. "I don't know of any mole in the Bush campaign," Doyne stressed. "I don't know of anyone that knows of any mole in the Bush campaign. I don't know of any information that we're receiving that the Bush camp doesn't want us to have." The Republican presidential hopeful's staff isn't satisfied with that answer. "It's troubling to us," said Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker. "It seems that there are people at the Gore campaign who may know more about a possible transfer of info from the Bush campaign than we previously thought."

Keep your day job
No matter what happens to Gore's candidacy, Joseph Lieberman is going to be sure he has something to do after the election. According to the Associated Press, the Democratic veep hopeful will start the week in his home state of Connecticut, campaigning to keep his old job as senator. Even some Democrats have criticized Lieberman's double run -- at the national level for appearing to have little faith in Gore, and at the state level for effectively shutting the Democrats out of his Senate seat should he become vice president. If Gore wins, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is likely to appoint a Republican -- either Rep. Christopher Shays or Rep. Nancy Johnson -- to fill Lieberman's Senate seat. Since Gore's slip in the polls, perhaps Lieberman is just looking out for himself. According to a Quinnipiac University survey, he now enjoys an 80 percent job approval rating, a record high in the region covered by the survey.

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Quitting cold turkey
Lieberman won't give up his Senate race, but Rick Lazio and Hillary Rodham Clinton have pledged to forgo any more soft money in their campaigns. ABC News reports that the New York Senate candidates have agreed informally to keep the unregulated donations out of their race. Lazio has also secured the signed agreements of representatives from 14 independent groups to stop running ads on his behalf. Though Clinton has yet to make her agreement official, Lazio is confident that a written agreement is coming. "I'm very hopeful that this holds," Lazio said.

On the trail
Buchanan: Florida.
Bush: To be announced.
Gore: Florida.
Nader: Washington.

Poll positions
Presidential race:

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  • Bush 47 to Gore 46 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Sept. 21-23).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 45 (Newsweek Sept. 21-22).
  • Gore 46 to Bush 39 (Reuters/Zogby Sept. 10-12).
  • Gore 42 to Bush 39 (New York Times/CBS News Sept. 9-11).
  • Gore 45 to Bush 42 (NBC/Wall Street Journal Sept. 7-10).
  • Gore 47 to Bush 47 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 4-6).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 1 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Sept. 21-23).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Newsweek Sept. 21-22).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (Reuters/Zogby Sept. 10-12).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 2 (New York Times/CBS News Sept. 9-11).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (NBC/Wall Street Journal Sept. 7-10).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Washington Post/ABC News Sept. 4-6).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Newsweek Aug. 30-31).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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