Fight to the finish

The race is far too close to call as the candidates push themselves to the limit. Campaign spending surges, and Lazio lies low.

By Alicia Montgomery

Published November 6, 2000 9:18AM (EST)

Al Gore and George W. Bush have battled for months, and 24 hours before the polls open, they're still being aggressive. USA Today reports that both candidates are giving the race their all, with Gore concentrating on turning out his base and Bush bent on winning a last-minute upset in Florida. Meanwhile, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader continues to make trouble for Gore, and the veep wannabes venture into crucial swing states. The pace has apparently taken a toll on the two major-party No. 2s. Joseph Lieberman is having trouble telling what city he's is in from hour to hour, and Dick Cheney has gotten even more hostile to the press following him. Though the struggle is almost over, neither Bush nor Gore wants to surrender an inch.

Marathon man
Gore has frequently pledged during the race that he'll "fight hard for you" if he wins the White House. He's certainly willing to fight hard to get there. Reuters reports that the vice president is traveling for 30 straight hours in a pre-election push through five states: Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Florida and Tennessee. Gore got a little practice at his marathon on Sunday, launching a multistate state run through Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that ended with a midnight rally at an airport in Iowa. Just five hours later, Gore got right back up, getting underway before dawn to visit a local John Deere factory. One Gore staffer, when asked if the sleep deprivation was taking its toll on the vice president's campaign team, replied, "We're not going to sleep until the polls open."

Heard about the lonesome loser?
On Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, not only will Americans know who won the title "commander in chief," they'll know who'll be called "loser" in the future. The Los Angeles Times reports that presidential also-rans rarely escape the sting of their loss, no matter how much time passes. "You want to know about losing?" 1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis said. "It stinks. Winning is a lot better." Part of that stink could be that whoever falls short on Election Day will become a perpetual punch line. "There are more jokes about losers than there are books about losers," says Nelson Warfield, press secretary for Bob Dole during his failed presidential race. Nonetheless, Warfield explains, some voters remain faithful to the losers they voted for. "The most common volumes you see written about them are the bumper stickers during the next administration: 'Don't blame me; I voted for the loser.'"

Paying the check
No matter who wins on Tuesday, the first bills many candidates will be concerned with are the ones they racked up during the race. The Washington Post reports that this year marks an all-time high in campaign spending, with nearly $3 billion being pumped into the contests by candidates, parties and special-interest groups, significantly more than the $2.2 billion spent on the 1996 contests. Those who want to clean up the campaign finance system find the numbers disturbing. "The volume of it is beyond anything we've ever seen before," said Larry Makinson of the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. Federal Election Commission chairman Trevor Potter concurred. "We haven't seen an election like this since 1972 in terms of the effectively unlimited amounts of money being spent," he said.

Political parties earned the top-spending title, dropping $877 million on various candidates and causes. Second was spending by congressional candidates, which totaled a whopping $801 million. And presidential candidates anted up $269 million.

Lazio lies low
The New York Senate race has been notable for being expensive -- and nasty. According to the New York Post, it has gotten even worse. In recent days, Long Island Rep. Rick Lazio has received a series of death threats that law enforcement officials believe could be tied to his pro-Israeli, anti-Arafat comments. "We are taking this very seriously," said one source familiar with Lazio's suddenly stepped-up security.

While Lazio is being targeted by his ideological enemies, he took the opportunity to aim a few barbs at his opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton. "There's only one candidate in this race who invited someone who believes terrorism is a legitimate tool to the White House," Lazio said, referring to the first lady's ties to Hamas supporter Abdurahaman Alamoudi. "For once -- for once! -- Mrs. Clinton must take responsibility for something that she does." Lazio should be prepared to accept responsibility for blowing his big chance in this race: Most polls show Clinton ahead.

On the trail
Bush: Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Texas.
Buchanan: North Carolina, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Gore: Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Florida and Tennessee.
Nader: Washington, New York and Massachusetts.

Presidential poll positions

Electoral College:

  • Bush 209 to Gore 196 (Reuters/MSNBC Nov. 6)
  • Bush 213 to Gore 182 (ABC News Nov. 5)
  • Bush 209 to Gore 182 (CBS News Nov. 5)
  • Gore 252 to Bush 250 (USA Today Nov. 5)

    Popular vote, major-party candidates:

  • Bush 47 to Gore 45 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Nov. 4-5).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 46 (Reuters/MSNBC Nov. 3-5).
  • Bush 49 to Gore 45 (ABC News Nov. 2-4).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 45 (Washington Post Nov. 2-4).
  • Bush 47 to Gore 42 (CBS News/New York Times Nov. 1-4).
  • Bush 46 to Gore 43 (Pew Center for the People and the Press Nov. 1-4).
  • Gore 44 to Bush 41 (Newsweek Oct. 31-Nov. 2).

    Popular vote, third-party candidates:

  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup Nov. 4-5).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 1, Browne 1 (Reuters/MSNBC Nov. 3-5).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (ABC News Nov. 2-4).
  • Nader 3 to Buchanan 1 (Washington Post Nov. 2-4).
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 1 (CBS News/New York Times Nov. 1-4).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (Pew Center for the People and the Press Nov. 1-4).
  • Nader 5 (Newsweek Oct. 31-Nov. 2).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

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

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