Autoworkers Ride With Gore

Workers prepare the Revolution Square for Saturday's parade, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Dec. 1, 2006. Castro's supporters in this Caribbean island of 11 million fervently wish he will at least appear for the military parade Saturday marking the semicentennial anniversary of the boat landing and Castro's 80th birthday.
If Al Gore had any doubts about how the run-up to the convention is going, you couldn’t tell as he campaigned on Friday. The vice president picked up an important endorsement from the United Auto Workers in the key battleground state of Michigan.

"Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, organize," an enthused Gore shouted at a union rally in Ypsilanti.

With the autoworkers on board, Gore is now close to solidifying his base - only the Teamsters are not on his union card. But even among autoworkers, that base is shaky, reports CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts.

Dan McCarthy and Al Benchich are two local presidents who’ll campaign not for Gore, but for Ralph Nader.

McCarthy, president of UAW Local 417, says “The Clintons, the Gores the Liebermans keep moving to the center while the center keeps moving to the right. Pretty soon you’ve got choices that the companies can approve of, but you don’t have a choice for the working people.”

And it’s not just the unions that Gore is in trouble with here. In parts of Michigan that look as much like the Middle East as the Midwest, an increasingly influential Arab-American community is wavering on Gore.

Abed Hammoud says the perceived pro-Israel record of Gore and Lieberman is not playing well in his community. A Gore delegate, he worries that losing the Arab vote could cost the vice president dearly in this winner-take-all state.

“Many people who vote traditionally Democratic told me they will not vote Democratic in November," Hammoud says.

Gore knows how important Michigan is – it's picked the winner in 10 of the last 12 presidential elections. He plans to spend a lot of time working voters here, beginning next Tuesday when President Clinton passes the ceremonial torch to Gore at a rally in Detroit.

Gore and running mate Sen. Joe Lieberman have also been working to solidify support among women.

The Democratic ticket appeared Friday at Little Souls Inc., a suburban doll-making company in Pennsylvania run by women that is known for hiring the disabled and homeless. Gore and Lieberman paid tribute to "the strong women in our lives" and touted proposals for "unprecedented tax cuts for working families."

After touring the factory, which turns out hand-made, upscale dolls, the Democratic duo spoke to more than 100 people jammed into a meeting room.

"For all our prosperity, women are working longer and harder hours," Gore said. "I'm not asking for support on the basis of past performance. I'm asking for your support on the basis of the better, fairer America we can build in the future."

Gore also pointed to a $100 billion package improving Social Security benefits for widows, all aimed at reminding working-class voters that their interests would best be served by his election.

The sound bite of his message is simple: He arues a single mother with two children gets $1,358 in tax breaks under his proposals, but only $295 under Bush's broader tax plans.

"These are not just abstract policy numbers," Gore said, gesturing to children of workers at the factory gathered nearby. "They have an impact on the lives of these children."

Lieberman said Gore would use the nation's prosperity to help working families. "I know in my heart he will move America forward not backward," Lieberman said.

Because Democrats traditionally rely on a gender gap sparked by women uncomfortable with Republican candidates, women are a demographic that Gore urgently needs to reach. The gender gap is being threatened by inroads George W. Bush has made with women in some polls.

Gore noted at the Friday events that his $500 billion tax-cut package includes a tax credit for child care expenses, as well as tax breaks for those taking care of elderly or infirm relatives. Those caregivers are largely women.