Gore has clear edge _ in campaign frenzy

Wednesday, November 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ No stranger to nonstop campaigning, Al Gore is picking up the pace even more, dashing from coast to coast in a blitz running straight through Election Day. This is one contest George W. Bush won't win.

Not that he wants to. While Bush is campaigning intensely, his team sees Gore's almost frenzied final week as evidence of Bush strength and Gore weakness.

Gore simply says he'll leave no hand unshaken if he can help it.

``It'll be a long eight days,'' he told cheering backers as he wrapped up a bus swing through the battleground Midwest. He promptly demonstrated what he had in mind for closing the campaign.

Just after midnight _ early Tuesday _ Gore flew out of Milwaukee, landing in the dead of the night in Portland. A few hours later he bounded out of his hotel to shake hands with backers lining the streets, and to meet with middle-class families in a state where the race is close.

From there, Gore was off to California and Jay Leno's show, before heading to Florida and a dawn arrival Wednesday in yet another state that's too close to call. After Florida, with no sleep except what he could catch on the plane, he was heading to Pennsylvania and rallies until the midnight hour.

Aides said tentative plans call for an eight-state effort to wrap up the campaign, with a 3 a.m. arrival in Nashville on Election Day.

The nonstop campaign has become a core part of Gore's message; he's arguing that he makes up in determination what he lacks in flash.

``I may not be the most exciting politician around, but I'll work my heart out for you every day and I'll never let you down,'' goes Gore's standard riff.

Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman insist they aren't worn down by the grind, taking energy from the crowds they draw.

The vice president goes out of his way to put on an energetic face. As his campaign plane flew to the West Coast, Gore came back to share campaign songs with reporters and even warble an off-key slice of the country classic ``On the Wings of a Snow White Dove.''

Taking note of Halloween, he brought back campaign manager Donna Brazile in a brightly colored wig to wave her wand and tell reporters ``I'm going to put a hex on you.'

At the same time, Gore's surrogates have been accusing Bush of not being up to the job, and Gore is trying to appear presidential. Gone are the polo shirts, replaced by somber blue suits. He often reads directly from a speech text.

Campaign strategists say Gore's intensity is driven in part by the tactic of getting the candidate into at least four media markets every day. A heavy slice of his schedule is set aside for interviews with local media.

Bush's schedule has picked up in recent days, and he no longer lives by his strict requirement that he be back in his hotel by his 9:30 p.m. bedtime. But the schedule is a good deal less intense than Gore's. There are no middle-of-the-night flights. Events are fewer.

That's based on the reasoning that the candidate's time is best used sounding a theme of the day early enough to get into the newspapers and on TV without then stepping on his own story.

Bush aide Dan Bartlett said Gore is being forced to defend widely scattered states like Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where most expected the Democrats to have a lock by this point.

Gore aides point to evidence that his nonstop campaigning has worked in the past.

Heading out of the Democratic National Convention, Gore did a redeye flight to the Midwest for a boat trip on the Mississippi River. His poll standing seemed to be bolstered by the convention and the photo-friendly trip.

Looking to build ties with workers, Gore and Lieberman dashed across the country on a 30-hour marathon to celebrate Labor Day, and the closing frenzy is designed to draw a contrast of Gore taking nothing for granted while Bush tries to coast home.

Bartlett argued that Bush can be more focused because he's built a solid base and can target opportunities to challenge Gore on traditionally Democratic turf.

``It's symbolic of the problem they have,'' he said.