Gore, Lieberman focus on American workers

Monday, September 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla.-Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman are pulling out all the stops in a sleep-deprived, six-state dash aimed at sending a jolt of energy into their political base.

"We're doing it to honor your work," Vice President Gore told workers repeatedly as the two tried to grab voters' attention with a Labor Day blitz taking the Democratic ticket to the dawn hours and beyond.

The candidates arrived in Florida in the pre-dawn hours, where Gore headed to an all-night coffee shop to chat with waitresses "who had the kind of job my mother had for quite a while." Lieberman went to a pre-dawn visit to a bakery, recalling one where his father worked, as both candidates underscored their ties to the working class.

"We decided that in the wee hours of Labor Day ... we'd reconnect with our roots," Gore told a dawn rally. "It was very moving for me." Lieberman expressed similar sentiments.

"Sometimes in government, like in the Senate, at the end of the day you're not really sure what you've accomplished," said Lieberman. "But here these guys know what they've accomplished."

Gore and Lieberman had breakfast with firefighters in a Hispanic neighborhood fire station that's one of the city's busiest.

"This crowd is a crowd that looks like America," said Gore.

The International Association of Firefighters was one of the first groups to formally endorse Gore and he's maintained close ties. He breakfasted privately with leaders then spoke at a rally.

"I've got a special connection with firefighters," said Gore.

The two were attracting a lot of media attention, including an appearance on NBC's "Today" program where Gore said the symbolism of the campaign event was important.

"It is a symbolic way of making a point," said Gore.

"The adrenaline surge is on," Lieberman added.

Speaking with reporters on his campaign plane during the flight to Florida, Gore said he's gotten an enthusiastic reception to his marathon swing because of the timing.

"Labor Day is the time to do that," said Gore. "It's the traditional kickoff of the campaign. It seemed logical to turn up the heat and shift into high gear and get the fall campaign off to a great start."

Gore was upbeat and chided reporters when he walked into their section of the airplane only to find some asleep.

"How can you sleep, it's a workathon," Gore said.

In their swing, the two sounded sharply populist themes as they greeted construction workers, watched a little football at a pub in Philadelphia and shook hands with workers changing late-night shifts in Michigan.

Arriving in Michigan, they were greeted by a couple of hundred cheering backers and continued their theme.

"If the labor movement were a religion, and in some ways it is, Flint, Michigan, would be a holy city," Lieberman said.

"This team is going to work its heart out for the hardworking middle-class families of America," he said.

Gore said the aim was "to focus on Labor Day what we ought to focus on, and that's the families who are paying the bills and making ends meet." He paid homage to workers who, he said, "are building the future in this country and making America what it is.

"You are what this campaign is all about," the presidential nominee repeated at appearances that went deep into the night. "You are what America is all about."

Gore and Lieberman delivered sandwiches to construction workers in Philadelphia, then greeted hospital workers at a late-night shift change in Michigan at the start of a 27-hour, nonstop campaign marathon. The campaign swing would take them to some of the most important battleground states in the election.

In Flint, Gore and Lieberman sipped coffee in a hospital cafeteria with workers to push their health care proposals.

They were sounding sharply populist messages, and making the point that it makes a difference for workers who wins the election in November.

Gore and Lieberman were headed for Florida for an early morning visit to a bakery and breakfast with firefighters. The two were splitting at that point, with Lieberman attending a Labor Day event in Detroit and Gore appearing at a a picnic in Pittsburgh and a rally outside a speedway in Louisville, Ky.

"We're going to keep going to talk to folks who are at work on Labor Day, like yourselves," said Gore.

The opening of the marathon took an occasionally madcap tenor. A sudden downpour in Philadelphia drenched the entourage as it tried to leave the construction site.

Campaign staffers were getting into the spirit of things, debuting a new song they wrote about the closing days of the campaign and passing out T-shirts bearing the message "I survived Joe and Al's Hard Days Night."

The message of the marathon swing was tightly focused, making the case that Gore and Lieberman are hard workers who understand the concerns of working people.

"This man has the concerns of working people in his blood," Lieberman said of Gore. He also joked with union workers about the frantic schedule.

"I'm beginning to think that the vice presidential candidate should have collective bargaining rights," said Lieberman. "This guy is working me."

Most surveys have suggested Gore has gained in recent weeks, and the campaign was clearly trying to build on that momentum.

Republican rival George W. Bush was working just as hard to blunt that momentum.

He was kicking off his fall presidential campaign with a weeklong tour through states where the race remains wide open.