Bush lobbies in Minnesota, while Gore tackles Florida

Associated Press

Focusing on Florida less than a week before Election Day, Al Gore urged senior citizens Wednesday to “save Social Security” by electing him president. He drew fire from a Republican general who said “we’re in a war right now” to convince voters that George W. Bush will protect and improve the retirement program.

The presidential candidates were campaigning in one another’s political backyards: Gore hoping to spring an upset in GOP-leaning Florida, Bush in Minnesota where he hoped third-party candidate Ralph Nader might drain Gore’s support and help Republicans win a state that usually goes Democratic.

The vice president began running a tough new ad criticizing Bush’s record as governor of Texas on taxes, health care for children, the minimum wage and the environment. The ad also takes a jab at the Republican’s plan for Social Security and ends with a tag line that sums up Gore’s central argument against Bush: “Is he ready to lead America?”

It comes on the heels of Bush’s latest ad, which directly questions Gore’s credibility, a campaign-closing theme he carried into Minnesota. “This country needs a president you can believe in,” Bush told supporters, before turning to the issue that dominated the day.

“I have a Social Security reform that gives people a stake in the future,” Bush said in Minneapolis. While proposing to allow investments in the stock market, the Texas governor said Gore offered only “an old and tired approach” on Social Security and other issues.

Appearing with his wife Tipper in the heart of the retirement belt, Gore told Kissimmee, Fla., seniors that Bush is using “soothing words” and “fuzzy math” to disguise serious flaws with the plan to privatize portions of Social Security.

Former Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said the Republican ticket was fighting “a war” to combat the Democratic criticism that the Bush plan would leave Social Security vulnerable to market shifts.

“This is not only untrue, it’s a blatant lie,” Schwarzkopf said in Punta Gorda in southwest Florida. Joining the general onstage, vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney accused Gore of “peddling a lot of garbage” about Social Security.

Bush in Minnesota and Gore in Florida, the topsy-turvy travel strategies underscored how untraditional and unpredictable this presidential race has become: Bush is pressing Gore in no fewer than six Democratic states, while fighting for his political life in the state governed by his brother Jeb.

Opinion polls show the candidates tied or Bush ahead.

Democrats and Republicans alike say Bush has the easier road to the 270 electoral votes necessary for victory. He has a base of 16 states and 135 electoral votes, plus another half-dozen or so states leaning his way. Florida is part of almost any Bush equation.

Gore was counting on a base of 10 states plus the District of Columbia with 107 electoral votes, but six of those states are still in doubt: Washington, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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