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Bush Brings Parents Into Campaign

January 29, 2000

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) _ Republican George W. Bush, who would be president, campaigned for the first time Saturday alongside his father, who once was, as the field of White House hopefuls plowed toward this week’s leadoff New Hampshire primary. Bill Bradley charged Al Gore was trying to ``dance around″ earlier qualms about abortion as he bid to cut into the vice president’s core Democratic support.

With the polls pointing to a tight finish, at least on the Republican side, Sen. John McCain mocked Bush’s endgame strategy as ``quick, get me another endorsement″ from the GOP establishment. People lining up behind the front-runner now are ``the same ones running our party in 1996 and 1998, when we lost elections,″ said the Arizona senator, who has come from far back in the pack to within striking distance of victory in the state.

Gore, who has moved past Bradley in recent polls, sought to blunt his rival’s attack on his position on abortion and his credibility. Asked whether he would say abortion ``is arguably the taking of a human life,″ as he wrote to a constituent 1987, the vice president said, ``I would not use that phrasing today.″

He quickly added, though, that ``on the narrow question, I’ve always supported Roe v. Wade. I’ve always supported keeping abortion legal.″

Steve Forbes, who finished a strong second in last week’s Iowa caucuses, Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer all made their rounds on the campaign’s final weekend, hoping for surprises in Tuesday’s vote that would catapult them into the thick of the GOP race. Forbes released new radio commercials attacking Bush for failing to be a firm enough foe of abortion, and for overseeing a big increase in spending in Texas.

The crowds were bigger Saturday, the political theater more entertaining, as New Hampshire voters prepared to render their verdict. A man stood on a Manchester street corner, wearing a Bill Clinton mask and waving a Bush placard. His presence on a wind-whipped day underscored that this begins the flood of primaries that will lead to election of the current president’s successor.

Still, after months of campaigning and thousands of candidate speeches, not everyone was ready to declare a preference. ``I’m slow to make my decision,″ said Robi Jackson, 57, of Portsmouth, who described herself as leaning toward Bush. ``My feeling is they all have wonderful ideas, but when you get to Washington, well, you know what they say: `Talk is cheap.‴

A Bush victory Tuesday would cement his credentials as front-runner and damage, if not cripple, McCain’s ability to sustain his challenge. The Texas governor began his day in Portsmouth, where he appeared before one of the largest crowds he’s seen thus far, an estimated 1,000 people.

From there, he went to Milford, where he posed for a Bush family political appearance. Father George Bush, mother Barbara and other family members flanked him, joined as well by Elizabeth Dole, the wife of the 1996 presidential nominee and herself a campaign dropout this time around.

``This boy, this son of ours, is not going to let you down,″ promised the former president _ who ran three times in the New Hampshire primary and won twice. ``He’s going to go all the way.″

``When I heard my family was coming up here to knock on doors it gave me that extra impetus to keep charging in New Hampshire,″ said his son.

Aboard McCain’s campaign bus, the candidate said the GOP establishment ``has become more and more alarmed″ at the possibility of his victory. ``We’ve interfered with a coronation.″

In the Democratic race, Bradley unveiled a new television ad that said of abortion, ``This is the kind of issue that you can’t straddle.″ Campaigning during the day, the former New Jersey senator said, ``I was pro-choice from the day I entered politics, and I will always be pro-choice. It’s not an issue you can dance around.″

Gore said in campaign debate last week that he had once opposed federal funding for abortions under Medicaid but had otherwise always been for abortion rights.

``Yes, my position has changed,″ Gore said. ``I strongly support a woman’s right to choose, and if (Bradley) disputes that, then he is making a mistake.″

Bauer plunged into the Democratic dispute, questioning Gore’s candor.

``I almost fell off my chair ... when I saw Al Gore deny that he had ever been pro-life,″ he said.

``When it comes to an issue this profound, a politician that plays games on something involving life and death I think loses all credibility to aspire to the White House,″ he said.

Keyes said he doesn’t plan any abrupt change in strategy in the final days of a race that looks bleak for him. ``I think one of the things most important for us is to walk the walk with integrity. It’s dictated by the fact that I think this is what the country needs,″ he said.