Gore, Bush tap into complex alliances

Friday, October 20th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Rivals Al Gore and George W. Bush are tapping into complex alliances, and doing so in states crucial to this year's tight presidential race, as they fight over who can take credit for the nation's economic health.

Bush was heading to New Hampshire and Maine to campaign with Arizona Sen. John McCain, who put up a stiff fight for the Republican presidential nomination before fading.

Bush received the endorsement Friday of The Washington Times which said he ``far surpasses Vice President Al Gore whether the qualifications are measured in terms of political priorities, leadership, personal character, governmental philosophies or vision of the future.''

``On issue after issue ... Bush offers the correct approach to the problems confronting America,'' the paper said.

Gore, meanwhile, was launching a television campaign in New Hampshire reminding voters that McCain argued in the primary season that Bush offered ``not one new penny for Social Security.''

``That's anything but straight talk,'' the Gore ad says, mimicking McCain's campaign slogan.

Gore was headed to Missouri for a memorial for Gov. Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash. In the campaign's closing days, Gore has pledged to focus on the administration's success in boosting the economy, boasting ``America has put its house in order.''

Bush is challenging Gore throughout New England, while Missouri is a tossup battleground state.

Both relationships are important, but complicated. McCain scored against Bush during the primary season, largely by attracting independent voters crucial to the general election.

Relations between the two men have been testy and one of McCain's key issues is campaign finance reform, where he has big disagreements with Bush. The Gore ad campaign was aimed at reminding voters of those disagreements.

The two also planned to campaign together in northern Florida next week. While relations between them have been cool, they have sought to ease those tensions.

Much of McCain's appeal was as a maverick, and his support likely won't automatically transfer to the more establishment Bush.

Gore is seeking to make the election a referendum on the nation's economy and the administration's policies. That's delicate because mentioning President Clinton also brings his personal foibles to the debate. Asked during a taping of ``Live with Regis'' if Clinton offered campaign advice, Gore demurred.

``Not too much, no,'' said Gore. ``It's something you really have to do on your own.''

But he stood with Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton at a noisy union rally in New York, along with running mate Joe Lieberman.

``I am proud to be on that team,'' Mrs. Clinton said. ``It is the Gore-Lieberman-Clinton team that will keep the prosperity and progress going.

``We want to keep moving together and that is a big difference from the team that we're running against,'' Mrs. Clinton said.

Though he's not a prominent part of the Gore campaign, the president views Gore's election as an affirmation of the policies he's pursued. Mrs. Clinton gains in New York because Gore is well ahead of Bush in that state.

After a day of cross fire, the two rivals briefly shared a stage at the Archdiocese of New York's Alfred E. Smith annual dinner, a white-tie tradition in New York politics where big name politicians trade jokes.

Both campaigns are looking for any edge they can get, because polls have shown the race a photo finish. A new national poll by NBC and a poll by Voter.com of battleground states both showed the race within the margin of error.

In seeking a focus on the nation's relatively healthy economy, Gore was playing to what backers argue is his fundamental strength, warning Bush's big tax cut plan coupled with allowing partial privatization of Social Security would end the prosperity.

``The economic policies my opponent has put forward in this election are not just unfair, they're unsound and they would hurt our economy,'' Gore said in a speech to business leaders. ``Let's cut to the heart of the matter _ both sides in this election have proposed targeted tax cuts. the difference is my plan targets the middle class, the Bush plan targets the wealthy.''

Bush was far from ceding the issue, arguing his tax cut plan would spark the economy.

``This election must bring a victory of freedom and innovation _ and a defeat for central planners and bureaucrats,'' said Bush.

Gore argues that Bush's plan to allow diversion of some Social Security taxes into private accounts would quickly bankrupt the system as well as damaging the economy.


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