Bush, Gore, Sharpen Line Of Attack

Tuesday, October 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MILWAUKEE (AP) — With neither candidate yet able to seize a decisive lead, George W. Bush and Al Gore are sharpening their attacks in the final two weeks of the presidential campaign.

With polls suggesting a cliffhanger outcome on Election Day, Republican Bush and Democrat Gore were going after undecided voters and crossing each other's campaign paths.

Bush was campaigning Tuesday in Illinois and in Gore's home state of Tennessee — states that went Democratic in 1996 but where Republicans think they have a good chance this year.

Gore also was to be in Tennessee, which he should have wrapped up by now but where polls show an unexpectedly tight race. He also planned events in Louisiana and Arkansas.

In Little Rock, Ark., the vice president planned to explain his views on how the federal government can help continue the nation's prosperity going by becoming smaller, smarter and more efficient. He will also suggest that Texas' bureaucracy with Bush as governor has become more bloated even as the federal government has tightened its belt, aides said.

Surrogates also were stepping up their assault on Bush's record in Texas, arguing it offers a model for what he'd do as president. Bush was expected to defend his record and emphasize his proposal for a $1.3 trillion across-the-board tax cut.

On Monday, Bush said Gore as president would be the ``obstacle in chief,'' fighting against school, tax and Social Security reform. Gore stuck mostly to his prosperity theme but argued that Bush hopes to ``run out the clock'' on the Nov. 7 election to avoid issues people care about.

Bush was campaigning in the Chicago suburbs Tuesday with a group of Republican governors, part of a team 28 GOP governors who are barnstorming for Bush this week.

Gore has led Bush in polls in Illinois, which has 22 electoral votes, but recent surveys show Bush closing in.

Illinois Gov. George F. Ryan, one of those on the cross-country tour, said Bush's ``persuasive powers'' may help him capture the state.

Even though Gore enjoys a slight edge, Ryan said in an interview, ``There's a good chance we can carry the state. We have strong support in southern Illinois, usually a strong Democratic area, and the Chicago suburbs will come along.''

With two weeks to go, ``I can't do it without you,'' Bush told thousands of boisterous supporters Monday night at packed rally in Milwaukee, urging them to find independents and ``open-minded Democrats'' and bring them to the polls.

He said their message to the undecideds should be: ``You tell them that this nation can do better, you tell them that our agenda is crystal-clear.''

Recent polls show Bush gaining in Wisconsin, usually a Democratic bastion with 11 electoral votes.

``We love you, Mr. President!'' a woman shouted to Bush from the crowd. ``Behave yourself,'' he fired back with a grin.

Bush also issued a solid vote of confidence to his top national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and gave the clearest signal yet that she would have a top spot in a Bush administration.

``I'm a better candidate with her at my side,'' Bush said, sharing the stage with Rice. ``If all goes well, she'll make a big difference for the security of this country.''

Rice is widely expected to head the National Security Council if Bush is elected.

Her remarks over the weekend about a pullout of troops from Bosnia and Kosovo produced sharp criticism from Gore, who accused the Bush team of ``playing politics with national security.''

Campaign officials said she was only restating what has been Bush's position all along — that U.S. troops should eventually be withdrawn from the Balkans and that future peacekeeping missions in Europe be done exclusively by European troops.

She and Bush reiterated this position Monday night.

Rice said, ``We have to respect the men and women who wear the uniforms and defend the United States of America'' and not exhaust them with ``endless, meaningless missions of social work around the world.''

Gore addressed supporters Monday night at a rally at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., where the basketball gym was packed to the rafters. He shook hands with hundreds more people who stood outside listening on two giant speakers and watching on large TV screens.

``You have shown extra commitment in being willing to stand outside,'' he said, asking them to ``channel that commitment'' in the next 15 days to ``convince people to vote for change in the right direction.''