Poll: Gore, Bush Tied

Sunday, August 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Al Gore and George W. Bush were tied in a poll of likely voters Sunday as aides for both candidates heated up the dialogue on the air waves over presidential debates.

``We are going to participate in a record number of five presidential and vice presidential debates,'' Bush communications director Karen Hughes said on ``Fox News Sunday.'' She was referring to a recent campaign proposal that the presidential candidates debate three times and the vice presidential candidates debate twice.

``We're game. We'll start this week. In fact, we'll do five times five if they'll give us the opportunity,'' said Donna Brazile, Gore's campaign manager. ``We'll start negotiations tomorrow.''

The Commission on Presidential Debates has proposed three between the presidential candidates, on Oct. 3 in Boston, Oct. 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Oct. 17 in St. Louis. The commission plan is for a vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky., on Oct. 5. The commission proposals are always subject to negotiations by the candidates.

Bush aides cautioned the surge Gore has gotten in the polls after his party's national convention could be short-lived. Bush got a bounce after his convention that quickly evaporated.

``We said all along that it's going to be a close election,'' Hughes said on CNN's ``Late Edition.'' ``We expect it to be a close, hard-fought election all the way to November.''

The CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll had Democrat Gore at 47 percent, Republican Bush at 46 percent, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader at 3 percent and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan at 2 percent.

The poll of 697 likely voters taken Friday and Saturday had an error margin of 4 percentage points. That same poll right before the convention showed Bush 16 points ahead of Gore, 55 percent to 39 percent.

``I don't think you can put too much stock in the instant polls taken in the immediate aftermath of a convention,'' Hughes said, noting that Walter Mondale surged ahead of Ronald Reagan in 1984 in some polls but eventually lost the race.

Gore's campaign press secretary Chris Lehane said the campaign was determined to appear nonchalant about the progress, but added: ``Clearly, there's some movement going on in this race.''

Gore's campaign manager William Daley said on NBC's ``Meet The Press: ``We are encouraged that people obviously listened to the vice president on Thursday evening. ... There are issues that we've got to address and he was specific about them. And I think that's what people reacted to.''

Bush aide Karl Rove countered that Gore's convention speech could cost him support in the long run. ``Al Gore launched out talking about populism, about class warfare, about powerful forces that were supposedly keeping us from making progress,'' Rove said.

The Gallup poll is one of several that have indicated Gore made significant gains in public opinion after his convention. A Newsweek poll out Saturday showed Gore slightly ahead at 48 percent to 42 percent, but that measured all registered voters, which tends to give stronger results to the Democrats.

Gore pulled even in the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll by building about a 20-point lead among women, while Bush has about the same size lead among men.

The poll suggested that Gore helped himself on the issues of health care, Medicare and Social Security during the convention.

Both campaigns are launching TV ad campaigns in key states to kick off the fall campaign. While Bush aides said they planned a positive focus, they would quickly respond if attacked.

Gore had about $6.4 million in the bank at the end of July before setting out for the Democratic National Convention and he had spent $44 million for his campaign, according to records filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission.

The debate picture has unanswered questions, the participation of third-party candidates among them. Hughes said on CNN ``that's not something we've really'' had ``a specific discussion with the governor about at this point.''

Former Democratic candidate Bill Bradley told Newsweek that Bush is unlikely to get clobbered by Gore in the debates because he hasn't provided specifics on plans like Social Security that Gore can pick apart.

``I'd rather be the guy who can't add two and two,'' Bradley told Newsweek. ``All Bush has to do is have one or two moments where people go, `Phew! I guess it's going to be OK!'''

Bush was to campaign in Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana and Florida in the coming week, while Cheney heads to California. Gore and running mate Joe Lieberman were getting back aboard their riverboat Monday to head to Hannibal, Mo., the boyhood hometown of Mark Twain.