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Bush Runs At His Own Pace

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush jogs along the path near Town Lake, March 14, 2000, in Austin, Texas. Bush jogs as often as he can on the campaign trail during the breaks.
AP
George W. Bush doesn't seem to break a sweat on the campaign trail, unless he's jogging.

In fact, the Texas governor recently cut short a day of running for president to make time for his three-mile run back home in Texas, ordering his entourage to leave Memphis, Tenn. - the site of his only event - several hours early.

It was just the latest example of Bush maintaining a mix of down time in his campaign schedule after the primary elections, when he increased his appearances in an effort to beat back a challenge by Sen. John McCain.

Since then, his preference for early bedtimes and short campaign swings have prevailed, even after he and his workaholic rival Al Gore captured their parties' nominations.

In the 17 days leading up to Labor Day, the traditional start of the fall campaign season, Bush was scheduled to spend eight days at home in Texas between several two- and three-day campaign swings.

Bush contends that his White House bid isn't just an endurance test.

"We continue to have an active schedule," Bush said recently, seemingly amused that anyone would ask about it. "I like the pace I'm on."

"People are going to make up their minds based upon who can lead this country, who can change the tone in Washington, who's got good ideas," he added. "And I think we're making pretty good progress."

Gore's campaign says Bush's is a snail's pace, noting that the Democratic nominee is just finishing a three-week marathon on the hustings, with no days off. Where Bush typically speaks for no more than 15 minutes at a time, Gore's meetings with undecided voters can last for hours.

It would be "ludicrous to suggest that anyone is campaigning harder than Al Gore," scoffed his spokesman, Chris Lehane.

For a while, the two campaigns waged a schedule-measuring contest. The result: Each did roughly the same number of events in the seven days following the party nominating conventions.

Candidates have sometimes touted their campaign activity as a measure of how hard they would work as president and an indication that they don't take votes for granted.

Bush often expresses his humility on the stump this way: "If I am fortunate enough to be chosen. ..." And he points to his record as Texas governor as proof of his work ethic.

He also has predicted that his schedule, which is carved out weeks in advance, will get busier after Labor Day, eventually putting him on the campaign trail five or six days a week.

But his docket lately has been relaxed after a post-convention train trip.

"You thought it was leisurely, coming down the train in California? I didn't think it was so leisurely," he told reporters. "I think we've got a pretty hectic schedule."

His usual style reflects an easygoing personality wary of boring his audience - and himself - according to one observer.

"He likes to work something cose to eight hours a day, with large blocks for running, and he likes to be home at night," said Bruce Buchanan of the University of Texas.

The Texas governor likes to be in bed by 9:30 p.m., and when campaign events keep him out late he tends to jumble his words. On Monday night, he bewildered Iowa campaign donors by stumbling repeatedly during a 7:45 p.m. event, mistaking "hostile" for "hostage" and twice listing "entrepreneurs" in a short list of those he seeks to help.

A standard campaign day involves between one and three public events, with fund-raisers and strings of short interviews in between.

He also jogs as often as he can during the breaks, usually while reporters file the day's stories.

"He's not a workaholic as Al Gore seems to be," Buchanan added. "He doesn't measure his success by the number of hours he works, but rather by the results he gets."

Candidates have historically run for the White House at different speeds determined by factors as disparate as their personalities, their duties if they were incumbents, or their campaign promises.

Richard Nixon, for example, could be considered one of the busiest candidates. In 1960, he forced himself to dash from one end of the country to the other after promising to visit all 50 states before Election Day.

Bill Clinton campaigned nearly around the clock in 1992 toward the end of his victory over Bush's father.

Four years later, he easily beat GOP nominee Bob Dole, who spent days at a time lounging by the pool at his Florida condominium but campaigned 96 hours straight in the final days of the contest.

Gore is following Clinton's almost fanatical footsteps.

On just about four hours' sleep and not quite finished with three weeks' of nonstop campaigning, Gore did a round of early morning talk shows Monday and pushed through soggy weather into Hannibal, Mo.

"I don't care how hard it rains, I don't care if the lightning comes down, I'm going to stay here and shake hands with y'all and talk to you," he told voters there.