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Bush finds across-the-board support in Oklahoma

Updated:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Republican George W. Bush benefitted from Oklahoma voters' overwhelming disgust with President Clinton as a person, beating Democrat Al Gore in the state's vote for the presidency Tuesday, an exit poll showed.

The Texas governor, long considered a shoo-in in the state, swept his Oklahoma neighbors off their feet, winning support from men and women, young and old, Republicans, Democrats and the religious right alike.

The troubles of the Clinton administration dogged Gore at the polls.

About half of all voters said they disapproved of Clinton's handling of the presidency and held an unfavorable opinion of him as a person. Ray Rains, a retired oilfield worker in Stroud, was among the nine out of 10 of those voters who gave Bush their support.

``I'm ashamed of the Democratic Party to tell you the truth,'' said Rains, an 80-year-old registered Democrat who said he voted straight Republican ticket in protest of Clinton and the sexual misconduct scandals that seized his office. ``I think it's a shame and disgrace for the highest office in this country to be desecrated by those people.

``I think George Bush will make, by far, the best president,'' Rains said. ``I think he's an honorable man, so why not vote for him?''

Bush won over one in five of the voters who chose Clinton in 1996, the poll showed.

Voter News Service, a partnership of The Associated Press and the ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC television networks, conducted the survey of 688 voters as they left 15 randomly selected polling places around Oklahoma. The sampling error margin for each result was plus or minus 5 percentage points for all voters, higher for subgroups.

Gore's proposals on issues like health care and Social Security appeared to resonate among the elderly. He trailed only slightly among those age 60 and older, the poll showed. Gore did best among self-described moderates, who split their vote between the two candidates.

James R. Harris, a retired college history professor, said he considered former President George Bush one of the most qualified men to ever serve as the nation's chief executive, but called George W. Bush '' a mere shadow of his father.'' Harris voted for Gore.

``I like his stand on issues more,'' he said. ``I think he is imminently more qualified for the presidency.''

Bush not only swept the Republican vote, he won over 3 out of 10 of the state's Democrats and led Gore among independents. He also won over the roughly three in 10 voters who describe themselves as members of the religious right.

Not even a roaring economy during the Clinton administration helped Gore, the poll showed.

Most voters said their financial situation had stayed the same or improved since the last election. Despite that, Bush managed to tie Gore among even those whose pocketbookds had been fattened under Clinton.

``I just think I like his programs a little better than I do Gore. And I think he has a little more character,'' said John Taylor, who held an umbrella over his head to stay dry from a cold sleet shower at one Oklahoma City precinct.

Taylor said he believes Gore's character was tainted by the personal misbehavior of the man he has served with the past eight years.

It was an opinion shared by the majority of Oklahomans. Seven out of 10 voters held a negative opinion of Clinton's character, and roughly 80 percent of them cast their ballot for Bush, according to the poll.

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