Bush: It's Gonna Be A Squeaker

George W. Bush, town meeting, St. Louis, GOP, Republican, White House, Campaign 2000
George W. Bush said Tuesday that recent swings in the polls point to a “really close race” against rival Al Gore and that he is eager to go “toe to toe” with him next week in the first televised debate.

"I'm going to win California," Bush said during a West Coast campaign swing. The Golden State is leaning toward Gore, but the national GOP this week pumped $1.7 million into that state.

With polls showing the race a dead heat, the candidates are spending most of their time in the big states - those rich in electoral votes - in a battle to secure the magic number of 270, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante.

Bush and his wife Laura appeared on Larry King Live while campaigning through California.

“The fact that I'm this close to a sitting vice president with the economy pretty good and the world at peace indicates I've got a very good chance,” Bush said.

It was the third popular talk show Bush has appeared on in a week.

King noted that Bush's poll ratings had climbed after he greeted Oprah Winfrey with a kiss and wore a look-alike dark-on-dark outfit on Regis Philbin's show.

“Imagine if I'd have worn suspenders,” Bush joked with the coatless, suspender-clad King.

Bush, who wore a business suit, sat next to his wife and answered questions from King and telephone callers during the hour-long session. He appeared relaxed and upbeat.

Asked if he had written off any states at this point in the campaign, with six weeks remaining before Election Day on Nov. 7, Bush paused a second and said, “that's a tough question ...”

“No,” Laura Bush interrupted.

As for the upcoming presidential debates, Bush said he wasn't nervous - and was looking forward to them.

Should third-party candidates Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader be included? “I think the American people want to see Vice President Gore and me go toe to toe,” he said.

Bush also said he hoped to overcome a “gender gap” that has seen Gore with more support among women voters than he has.

“I think I'm going to eventually do well with women for a couple reasons. One is because I've got a clear vision of how to improve our public education.”

The other, he said, was “I've got a clear vision of how to provide people with more time. And that is to give them some of their own money back” in terms of a tax cut.

Bush spent a second day promoting his 10-year, $47 billion education package and reiterating his claim that the nation was in the grip of an “education recession.” He released a TV commercial echoing the argument.

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