Gore Seeks To Broaden Economy Pitch

Saturday, October 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Al Gore met with African-American ministers to tout the ``deeper values'' he brings to the campaign and to add a jolt of energy to black voter turnout efforts important to his hopes.

``This race depends on you, it really does,'' Gore told about 75 church leaders, ``I need your help.''

With the race a dead heat, Gore is banking on a solid voter turnout among African-Americans in states like Louisiana, where polls show George W. Bush with an edge. To that end, he's enlisting the aid of ministers, pointing to his own religious faith.

``I am a person of faith,'' Gore said. ``Faith is at the center of my life.''

Gore prayed with the religious leaders, and broadened his economic pitch.

``This election is not only about the economy, but it's about values,'' said Gore. ``It starts with the economy but then it goes to our deeper values,'' Gore said. He argued that keeping promises on issues like Social Security demonstrate the character of a campaign.

Democrat Gore planned to spend the weekend focusing on the candidates' competing Social Security proposals, sharpening his argument that Texas Gov. Bush's proposal to partially privatize the retirement system would drain $1 trillion from it.

Gore says that is a certain route to bankruptcy for the system, as well as a body blow to the nation's robust economy. With campaign strategists convinced they've got a winning issue, the vice president has spent all week making his case to business groups.

``The days are ticking down and Governor Bush has a choice to make,'' Gore argues. ``It's time for him to tell us whether he will break his promise and cut benefits or raise the retirement age. Which will it be and when will he tell us?''

Republican Bush rejects any suggestions that his proposals would require such drastic measures, and he was launching an assault of his own.

On Saturday, Bush was releasing a pair of new ads focusing on education, a traditionally Democratic issue, and raising issues that usually face parents.

He delivers his ad message in person, warning that ``children are forced to grow up too fast'' and calling for family hours on television, character education, drug prevention and school safety.

``I believe parents today need more allies, not adversaries, to help raise moral, responsible children,'' said Bush in the ad, called ``Tools.''

The second spot features Bush arguing for increased standards, boosting accountability and ending social promotions. ``It's easy to spend more,'' he says in a dig at Gore's plan to boost education spending. ``Let's start by expecting more.''

The ads were being rotated in the 19 states where Bush is concentrating his campaign advertising.

Bush has been campaigning with former rival John McCain, hoping to score with independent voters attracted to the Arizona senator's maverick bid for the Republican nomination.

McCain declared Bush ``fully prepared'' to assume the White House, high praise from a rival who criticized Bush harshly during the primary season.

Gore was firing back with new television ads featuring McCain's criticism of Bush during the primary campaign, hoping to end any sense of GOP solidarity.

With the presidential race so close, both sides were looking for every edge. Bush on Saturday planned a conference call with organizers in Washington state to energize a voter turnout effort in that normally Democratic state.

Gore was countering that by heading to Washington and Oregon on Sunday night and Monday.

In addition, Gore was dealing with questions about tensions with President Clinton over excluding the president from the campaign. The two appeared together at a memorial service for Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, killed in an airplane crash.

``Not true, categorically not true,'' Clinton said of the reports of tension. Clinton, Gore and their wives went out of their way to show affection.

Clinton draped his arm around Gore; Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tipper Gore hugged affectionately as they boarded separate airplanes.

Gore was more circumspect.

``This is a campaign that I am running on my own,'' the vice president said. ``The president is my friend and I appreciate his help in the campaign.''

There are no plans for the two to appear together, though both said campaign schedules are flexible in the final days of a hotly contested campaign.