Bush is bashed as a lightweight

The Texas governor cools his heels in Austin as Gore runs a Michigan marathon. Clinton pounds the pulpit while Nader Democrats suggest a vote swap.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published October 30, 2000 10:23AM (EST)

George W. Bush first made a name for himself working for the Texas Rangers, but the Democrats say his government experience is strictly minor league. The New York Times reports that while Al Gore tries to stay above the fray, his running mate, Joe Lieberman, is pressing the message that the Texas governor doesn't know enough to be trusted with the presidency. "I don't think Governor Bush is ready -- based on his experience, his record, his proposals in this campaign -- to be the kind of president that the American people need at this point in our history," Lieberman said on the ABC News program "This Week." So far, Gore has left the dirty work of bashing Bush to others. Asked whether he agreed that the Texas governor is too inexperienced, Gore demurred. "I haven't said that I believe it, because I don't think it's my place to say that I believe it," the vice president said.

Striking from home base
Bush backers say he is ready for the job, though Bush was clearly ready for a rest this weekend. The Boston Herald reports that the governor nonetheless campaigned via satellite from Texas, asserting that he'll be a challenge to Gore in California. "While my opponent has been busy counting the votes of California, I've been working hard to earn them," the Texas governor said to a group of Latino voters. "I've said it before and I'll say it again: We are going to win the state of California." But one Massachusetts Democrat insists that the confidence Bush tries to project is just posturing, and that both candidates could blow their chances at any time. "Bush and Gore are living in total fear of making a mistake, any mistake," said Gore supporter Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass. "One slip and it could cost you the race. It's that close."

The Michigan man
While Bush cooled his heels in Texas, Gore and Lieberman went on a magical mystery tour across Michigan Sunday. The Detroit Free Press reports that Gore made several stops across the state, urging key voting blocs to turn out on his behalf. Speaking to Arab-Americans, Gore came out against methods of racial profiling that target that group, and also stated his opposition to moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Later, he encouraged black churchgoers to turn out the vote in their community. "In due season we shall reap if we faint not," Gore said during Sunday services. "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Voters in the state who aren't necessarily excited by the thought of seeing Gore for years to come got a clear message from the vice president's wife at a later Michigan stop. There, Tipper Gore addressed the problems some voters may have with her husband's personality. "It's not 'The Dating Game,'" she said, stressing that Gore's major selling point is his experience. "You don't have to fall in love with Al Gore. I did that."

Who let the dog out?
Though those close to the White House have long denied it, rumors have been spreading for months that Gore has fallen out of love with his boss, and that the chill wind has kept President Clinton off Gore's campaign trail. Still, he has been enlisted to play a limited role in rallying the faithful. To that end, the Chicago Tribune reports, Clinton turned in a low-key performance from the pulpit of a black church in Washington in an effort to mobilize the black vote for Gore. Noting that this election season is "the first time in 26 years I haven't been on the ballot somewhere," the president spoke of himself as a "fellow believer, child of God and fellow sinner." He cautioned that those who don't see a difference between Bush and Gore "are dead wrong," and said that the Republican would reverse the nation's progress if he were to win the White House. "We're going to cross some bridges. The question is, are we going to go in the right direction?" he said.

Phone a friend
Democrats argue that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is leading voters in the wrong direction, and could turn the election in Bush's favor. Those walking the line between Gore and Nader now have a Web site to help them make the final call. "We've all heard it: 'A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush,'" reads an introduction to the site. "Wouldn't it be great if you could both vote for Ralph Nader AND against George W. Bush?" The site offers a simple plan for resolving that conundrum: Nader and Gore voters should offer to swap votes. Backers of the Green Party candidate who live in swing states could make an agreement with Gore backers in states that are in Bush's pocket. The potential result? Gore would maximize his swing state support, Nader would get closer to his 5 percent goal in the popular vote and Bush would get nothing. And on Nov. 8, Nader Traders would presumably get to enjoy their success without the long arm of the law's reaching out to get them. The Justice Department reportedly has declared the vote-trading plan legal.

On the trail
Bush: New Mexico and California.
Buchanan: To be announced.
Gore: Michigan and Wisconsin.
Nader: Washington.

Presidential poll positions
Major-party candidates:

  • Bush 49 to Gore 42 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Oct. 26-28).
  • Bush 45 to Gore 42 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 26-28).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 46 (ABC News Oct. 26-28).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 46 (Washington Post Oct. 26-28).
  • Bush 45 to Gore 42 (Newsweek Oct. 25-27).
  • Gore 45 to Bush 43 (Pew Center for the People and the Press Oct. 18-22).
  • Bush 44 to Gore 42 (CBS News/New York Times Oct. 18-21).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Oct. 26-28).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 1, Browne 1 (Reuters/MSNBC Oct. 26-28).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (ABC News Oct. 26-28).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (Washington Post Oct. 26-28).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 2 (Newsweek Oct. 25-27).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (Pew Center for the People and the Press Oct. 18-22).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (CBS News/New York Times Oct. 18-21).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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