Gore, Bush Move Into Stretch Run
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Al Gore is putting the faces of individual voters in his campaign while George W. Bush hits the road with fellow governors as the two presidential candidates wage an electoral chess match in a handful of states likely to settle the race.
Both were looking to energize their base and compete for a shrinking number of undecided voters. Gore worked overtime to fire up union workers and black voters, while Texas Gov. Bush showcased the support of GOP statehouse colleagues.
The governors are visiting 25 states ``to take Governor Bush’s message to the grass roots, energize the troops, because we think at the end of the day, a lot of this is going to be about turnout in the battleground states,″ Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said on CBS’ ``Early Show″ Monday.
As they sketched strategies for the final two weeks, Bush opted a challenge in some states reliably Democratic in past elections.
For his part, the vice president planned to focus ``relentlessly″ on the issues in the campaign’s closing days, including a series of seven policy speeches in which he hopes to draw a contrast with Bush on matters ranging from education to the environment.
``This is not a race for prom king, this is a race for the presidency,″ said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane.
To put a human face on his effort, Gore will meet each morning in small settings with typical voters to underscore his points. He was beginning the effort Monday in Portland with businesswoman Heather Howitt.
``It’s families like these who understand what is at stake in this election,″ Gore said in remarks prepared for the event. ``They know about big choices because they make them on behalf of their families every day.″
Campaign aides said Howitt was able to start her own beverage business because of the solid economy, and the meeting with her was setting the stage for a policy speech later Monday in which Gore planned to contrast his competing economic views with Bush’s.
In 90 news conferences in 23 states, most of them on Monday, Democrats were releasing a 10-minute video attacking Bush’s record on health care, the environment and education.
Bush, meanwhile, was traveling through Midwestern battleground states with governors in tow, dashing from Kansas City, Mo., through Iowa to Wisconsin. He said the weeklong swing would ``invigorate the grass-roots organizations we have in place all across the country.″
Gore was campaigning in Oregon and Washington state before heading to Little Rock, Ark. The Pacific Northwest had been reliably Democratic, but Bush is challenging there.
Wisconsin and Iowa also are states Gore had counted on, but Bush was willing to devote precious campaign time there, as well as Missouri, another swing state.
In addition to energizing voter turnout efforts, the Republican governors were arguing that Bush was able to unite a diverse group of state chief executives and ease the fears of independent voters.
Bush is ``an effective executive who’s been able to solve problems and get things done in a bipartisan way,″ New York Gov. George Pataki said Sunday in Austin, Texas, at the kickoff of a campaign drive by 28 Republican governors.
Some polls have suggested Bush has an edge, while others show the race tight. A CBS-New York Times poll showed Bush at 44 percent to 42 percent for Gore, while a CNN-USA Today-Gallup survey gave Bush a nine-point lead, 51 percent to 42 percent.
Gore strategists said they see the race as tight and competitive, and want to focus on issues that poll well for them like Social Security, while Republican strategists saw movement in their direction in key states.
``I think people are planted where they have been for the last two weeks,″ said Gore strategist Stan Greenberg. He predicted a late-breaking electorate.
With the candidates preparing to embark on a two-week blitz to Election Day, both camps dispatched surrogates around the country to sound the core theme of their campaigns.
Republicans questioned Gore’s character and said he can’t be trusted, while Democrats were raising questions about whether Bush is up to the job.
``Lack of experience is an issue. It does have an impact. It does affect the way a man can do the job,″ Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., said Monday on NBC’s ``Today.″
EDITOR’S NOTE _ Associated Press Writer Tom Raum, traveling with the ush campaign, contributed to this report.