Bush at home, Democrats do TV talk shows, churches
MACOMB, Mich. – While the Republican side mostly rested on Sunday, Democrats Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman blanketed TV talk shows, mined Detroit’s black churches and motored through Michigan with a blunt homestretch message: “George Bush is not ready to be president of the United States.”
Tipper Gore appealed to those who don’t see her husband’s personal appeal, telling Macomb County’s swing voters the presidential election is not “The Dating Game.”
“You don’t have to fall in love with Al Gore — I already did that,” she said before boarding a bus caravan with the vice president, running mate Lieberman and his wife Hadassah.
At home in Austin, Texas GOP Gov. George W. Bush interrupted his day off to address California Latino supporters by satellite. He predicted he’ll beat Gore there because he is working to earn every vote while Gore, who will make a late dash to California on Tuesday, has taken its 54 electoral-vote grand prize for granted.
President Clinton, banished to the wings, preached at two Washington-area black churches, trying to excite likely Gore voters to turn out on Election Day.
The latest polls give Bush a narrow but notable edge in a race that has seesawed since the summer conventions. State polls dramatize the historic closeness of the contest: Gore appears ahead in Florida, Bush up in Ohio and other battlegrounds still tight tossups.
With nine days left in the campaign, the rhetoric got even sharper, with Lieberman flatly asserting that Bush is not ready to be president.
“Maybe someday, but not now. Now George Bush is not ready to be president of the United States, the kind of president you need and deserve,” Lieberman told a rally on the lawn of Macomb County Community College, repeating lines he used on three network morning shows.
Mrs. Gore, who normally keeps her introductions short and sweet, also piled on, saying voters want experience and “somebody who understands foreign policy.”
Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate who is pulling support from Gore among liberals in key states such as Michigan, where Gore has a slight edge, dismissed him as ineffectual.
“If Gore cannot beat the bumbling Texas governor, with that horrific record, what good is he? What good is he? Good heavens, this should be a slam dunk,” Nader said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Gore previously had left it to lower-profile surrogates to question whether Bush’s 5 1/2 years as governor with limited state constitutional powers qualify him to be president.
Aides did not rule out that Gore himself would take up the charge, if he makes no headway in the next several days. Late Saturday night, Gore signaled the shift in focus in commenting on his endorsement by The New York Times, which said Bush’s knowledge and resume were lacking.
“My already high estimation of the New York Times has risen even further,” Gore told reporters aboard Air Force Two.
He is “now throwing every negative kitchen sink at the governor he can find,” complained Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, who said Bush’s final-week theme will be “bringing America together.”
Underscoring his confidence, Bush will campaign in New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington state, Minnesota and Iowa — all states that Democrats traditionally win in presidential elections.
His parents, former President Bush and first lady Barbara, will be out on the trail, too, along with former Sen. Bob Dole, the 1996 GOP nominee, and wife Elizabeth Dole.
At home in Austin, Texas, Bush went to church hand-in-hand with wife Laura, took a back pew and a hymnal. Outside Tarrytown United Methodist Church, he told reporters there was nothing like being around friends “you can count on” and “a little spirituality to prepare my mind for the final week.
“Keeps life in perspective — properly in perspective, I might add,” Bush said.
From campaign headquarters, Bush addressed more than 200 Latino Republicans meeting in Anaheim Hills., Calif., by satellite TV.
“While my opponent has been busy counting the votes of California, we’ve been working hard to win them,” said Bush, who will campaign Monday and Tuesday in the biggest state, where a GOP upset would cripple Gore.
“It’s becoming pretty clear that the vice president is taking California for granted,” he said, noting that Gore has now changed his plans to go there on Tuesday. “I hear he’s going to rush in at the last minute,” Bush said.
Gore told Detroit church worshippers: “The next nine days will determine if we have grown weary in doing good. ... We have left Egypt but we have not yet arrived in Canaan.”
In Washington, Clinton told churchgoers “there are differences in education policy, in health care policy, in environmental policy, in crime policy, and our foreign policy, arms control, how we relate to Africa and the rest of the world, just a ton of things here.”
“Now, you need to know and you need to show on Election Day!”
Gore also met privately Sunday morning with Michigan’s influential Arab-American leaders, some of whom have endorsed Bush and have been alarmed by Gore’s recent pro-Israel statements. Gore assured them of his “even-handed” approach to the Middle East, participants said.
In what Lieberman jokingly calls “double dating,” the Democratic candidates, their wives and rocker Jon Bon Jovi rolled 260 miles through Michigan, where the latest poll gives Gore a hair-thin edge.
Bon Jovi said he wrote his song “Living on a Prayer” during the Reagan-Bush era of “trickle-down economics” and didn’t want to go back.
One spectator in their last-stop Muskegon crowd held a poster goading Gore, “Let’s see that kiss.” He shouted out, “I feel hot!”