By HUNTER T. GEORGE
Democrats and Republicans continued a flurry of campaign stops across Washington state, as leaders of both parties reminded voters they could be the ones to decide which way the entire presidential election turns.
“You, indeed, are at ground zero,” Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson told about 400 people at Federal Way High School on Sunday. “We are on the cusp of doing something of historic proportions … electing a Republican president and a Republican Congress for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower.”
Democrats were no less dramatic.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on you, but the future of America is on your shoulders,” Joe Lieberman, running mate of Democrat Al Gore, told about 2,000 supporters at Highline Community College in the south Seattle suburb of Des Moines.
Washington is one of a handful of states pollsters have said could be too close to call, and its 11 electoral votes may be key to the election outcome.
Republicans, led by U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton’s “leave no one behind” tour, said voters have the opportunity to curb the growth and reach of Big Government by putting Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the White House and keeping the GOP in charge of Congress.
Democrats, led by U.S. Senate candidate Maria Cantwell on a school bus covered with campaign posters, said the election is about maintaining the booming economy, preserving Social Security and protecting abortion rights.
Dick Cheney, running mate for Republican George W. Bush, was appearing in Everett and the Tri-Cities areas this afternoon and evening, while the Democrats’ bus tour continued and Gorton scheduled appearances in Port Angeles and with Cheney.
Lieberman rolled into Des Moines an hour late Sunday. His schedule had been thrown out of whack earlier in the day when he wore out his airplane crew during a trip across the West. Aides had to scramble to find another plane.
Republicans wrapped up a three-day tour with rallies in Federal Way and Bellevue on Sunday.
Gorton, who’s facing a tough challenge from Cantwell as he seeks a fourth term, said he has never seen the GOP so energized and unified heading into an election.
“We’re not only singing out of the same hymnal, but off the same page,” he said.
Bob Lawrence, the Republican candidate challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, urged party activists to go “precinct by precinct, block by block, step by step” in the waning hours of the campaign to persuade neighbors to turn in absentee ballots or vote in person Tuesday.
Republican U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn pleaded for activists to “pull Bush across the finish line” in a state that hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Sunday night, 500 GOP supporters packed the Bellevue Boys &Girls Club to hear Bush’s chief foreign policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice. She called him a candidate of great judgment, openness and inclusiveness.
“We have had great presidents who have been governor,” Rice said, “and I can assure you that running Texas is a lot harder than running Arkansas.”
Democrats, meanwhile, delivered a similar message as they continued the second day of a three-day “Victory 2000” bus tour, which made stops Sunday in Bremerton, Tacoma, Olympia and Longview.
“After 41 years in elected office, it’s just time for Slade to leave. It’s time we have a new generation of leadership,” Cantwell told a cheering crowd at Sheridan Elementary School in Tacoma.
“This is an election about whose voice is going to be heard – your voice or the voice of special interests.”
Sarah Green, the school’s principal, said she’s supporting Democrats like Cantwell because they would be good for schools. At the same time, she’s tired of the barrage of negative campaign ads on television.
“It’s been ugly,” she said, citing the Senate race in particular. “I’ll be glad when that one is over.”
Robin Buckman, president of Sheridan’s Parent-Teacher Association, said she attended the Democrats’ rally because she still cannot decide whom to vote for in the presidential race.
Buckman said she normally votes for Democrats, but she likes Bush better than Gore. She remained undecided, however, because of her concern that Bush would appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.
Democrats appealed to those concerns.
“Let me just say two words – two words on why you need to work your heart out between now and 8 o’clock Tuesday night: Supreme Court,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray told crowds at each stop.
Murray would become the state’s senior senator if Cantwell beats Gorton.
Both parties continued to draw on star power to get voters’ attention.
On the Republican side, actor Robert Conrad and Steve Largent, the former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver who’s now an Oklahoma congressman, toured with Gorton.
For Democrats, actor Jimmy Smits rallied with Hispanic voters in Yakima, while former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy of Massachusetts campaigned in Spokane.
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