Bush campaign moves to win women, McCain supporters

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Wayne Slater / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – With the battle for votes escalating toward its final phase, the George W. Bush campaign is moving to counter the governor's weaknesses among two groups crucial to winning the presidency – women and independent supporters of Sen. John McCain.

Mr. Bush's wife and mother will set out Wednesday for a bus tour aimed at appealing to female voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

"This is obviously an important voting group, and we're not going to cede any of these votes to the Democrats," Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said Sunday.

First Lady Laura Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush, foreign policy adviser Condoleezza Rice and Lynne Cheney, wife of vice presidential running mate Dick Cheney, will promote Mr. Bush's agenda on health care, safety and economic security, according to the campaign. Cindy McCain, wife of the Republican Arizona senator, will join the group Monday.

Women have voted increasingly Democratic in recent elections, and polls indicate Mr. Bush trails Al Gore among women in this year's presidential contest. Nearly twice as many women as men remain undecided in the race, according to a recent bipartisan Voter.com/Battleground Poll.

Political analysts say women tend to see government as a supportive partner in dealing with issues such as health care and the economy, more closely reflecting the philosophy of the Democratic Party. Moreover, women are more likely to side with Democrats on issues such as gun control and abortion, analysts say.

Mr. Bush is an opponent of abortion rights, while Mr. Gore supports abortion rights.

Ms. Tucker on Sunday dismissed the impact of the abortion issue in the presidential race, saying, "I can't see that on either side it's had an impact either way."

Meanwhile, Bush aides announced that Mr. McCain, a one-time GOP rival, will join Mr. Bush at a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Friday.

Mr. McCain was particularly successful in attracting independent voters during the primary season, beating Mr. Bush in New Hampshire and Michigan with an upstart campaign that included a pitch for campaign finance reform.

Mr. McCain took issue with what he said were negative campaign tactics by Bush operatives during the primaries, and relations between the two men have been strained, according to aides.

The Arizona senator has been busy campaigning for Republican congressional candidates but has made few appearances with Mr. Bush.

Ari Fleischer, a Bush campaign spokesman, on Sunday acknowledged Mr. McCain's appeal to independent voters and said the Arizona senator "will rejoin the governor for many additional stops" before Election Day on Nov. 7.

The Bush campaign also plans to host 29 of the nation's 30 Republican governors in Austin next Sunday for a photo opportunity before the governors are dispatched in groups to campaign in battleground states Oct. 23-25. Bush aides said only West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood, who is in a race for re-election, would not be joining his fellow GOP governors on the multistate tour.

As Mr. Bush prepared at the Governor's Mansion on Sunday for next week's town hall-style debate, Mr. Gore headed for St. Louis, the site of Tuesday's forum. The vice president was scheduled to hold a mock town hall meeting on Monday in preparation for the third and final nationally televised showdown between the two candidates.

While Mr. Bush's schedule includes stops over the next week in key battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Mr. Gore's schedule was a little less certain. Aides said he wants to remain available for further work on the Mideast crisis and the possibility of subbing for President Clinton at a memorial service Wednesday for sailors killed in the suspected terrorist bombing of the USS Cole.