Voters fit to be wowed by vows of Bush, Gore

Monday, October 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

For many, choice rests on belief in promises

By Todd J. Gillman / The Dallas Morning News

Promises, promises. That's what an election boils down to.

"A promise made will be a promise kept, should I be fortunate enough to become your president," Mr. Bush told the American people last week in the final presidential debate.

Said Mr. Gore: "We both made promises in this campaign. I promise you I will keep mine."

In the next 16 days, voters must decide which set of promises makes more sense, which means more to them personally, and which candidate would be more likely to deliver if elected. Early voting starts Monday in Texas and ends Nov. 3, four days before Election Day.

"They all make a lot of promises," said retiree John Hardman of Dallas, taking in the sights at the State Fair of Texas and pondering his choice.

For him, education is a top concern; his wife and daughter are teachers. But Mr. Hardman, 65, a retired puppeteer, also worries about the high cost of medical care.

"I'm at that age," he said.

He said he'll probably vote for Mr. Gore, saying the governor lost some trust when the savings never materialized from a multibillion-dollar property tax cut in Texas a few years ago. "I'm not too impressed with Bush's record in Texas," Mr. Hardman said, although adding that "Gore scares me a little bit with his exaggerations."

Other voters enjoying the fair expressed just as much skepticism about Mr. Gore's record. Some even noted – echoing Mr. Bush – that a president needs more than good intentions. He needs a politically viable agenda and a working relationship with Congress.

Valley Ranch resident and Bush supporter Stephanie Williams, 30, for instance, thinks Mr. Gore has made so many promises that he can't possibly fulfill them. Not that she wants to give him the chance.

"You can't do it all," she said, pausing near the kiddie rides with her husband, Joe, 37, and their 2-year-old daughter, Ashton.

Both candidates promise to improve education. Mr. Bush would offer vouchers to help parents pay private or parochial school tuition. Mr. Gore would provide federal money to help local districts hire more teachers.

Entitlement pledges

Until recent events in the Middle East and Central Europe thrust foreign affairs to the fore, the campaigns expended most of their energy convincing voters that their entitlement programs were more generous, or at least more equitable.

Both promise to save Social Security, expand health coverage and help seniors pay for prescription drugs. The scale and approach of their plans differ greatly, though.

On drugs, for instance, Mr. Bush's plan caps out-of-pocket costs for seniors at $6,000. It works by giving incentives to insurance companies. Mr. Gore caps costs at $4,000 but adds the drug benefit through Medicare. It takes a bigger bite out of the federal budget.

On Social Security, Mr. Gore would keep the existing system while adding tax incentives that encourage workers to set aside more money for retirement. Mr. Bush would divert some payroll taxes from younger workers into the stock market, betting that over time the result will be bigger monthly checks. His plan could cost $1 trillion more in the short term.

Buying into their words

As on so many points of dispute, voters will decide for themselves which approach is riskier and whether the extra costs are justified.

Salesman Daniel Muñiz of Garland, 27, tends to buy Mr. Bush's argument that he'll be better able to reach across party lines to get things done in Washington. "They both probably will follow through," he said, enjoying a snack near Big Tex, "but in terms of what they're promising and their track record, I trust Bush more."

For Anita Branch, 40, of Grand Prairie, a financial analyst, the stakes couldn't be higher. As a woman and an African-American, she said, she's worried about the direction the Supreme Court would take if Mr. Bush got to fill the two or three vacancies expected during the next presidency.

"I do not want to see them overturn Roe vs. Wade or affirmative action. I do not want to see this country turn hostile again, like it was under [former President Ronald] Reagan," she said.

And she's worried that Mr. Bush's $1.3 billion tax cut might lead to deficit spending if the economy turns sour. "We're talking about mortgaging our children's and our children's children's future," she said as her son, Dwayne II, 2, played after lunch outside the Cotton Bowl.

As for which candidate to trust, voters can look to the candidates' records and their rhetoric.

"I keep my word" was the assurance Mr. Gore gave in the last debate. "I've kept the faith with my country. ... I have kept the faith with my family. ... I have kept the faith with our country."

Said Mr. Bush: "You were promised that Medicare would be reformed, and that Social Security would be reformed. You were promised a middle-class tax cut in 1992. It didn't happen."