CBSN

Getting Specific

George W. Bush
AP
With Vice President Al Gore ahead in polls for the first time, George W. Bush is being forced to do something he hasn't had to do for a while - get specific, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker.

On Thursday in Louisiana, Bush laid out to the dollar his plan to aid black and Hispanic universities.

He proposed expanding funding to these institutions by $600 million over five years.

Bush has painted his vision in broad strokes for so long he's grown rusty on the details. In Iowa this week, he tried to clear up questions about his massive $1.6 trillion tax cut, and just made things muddier.

"Our budget is going to grow from roughly $1.9 billion to an additional spending of $1.9 trillion to an additional spending of $3.3 trillion," the GOP presidential candidate said.

Facts and figures are a different tack for a man who, until recently, sailed ahead on charm as much as policy. In a year with a buoyant economy and no burning issues, the Bush folks concluded one key to winning is the governor's winning personality.

But Al Gore's fact-laden campaign has taken some wind out of Bush's sails, and the candidate once so comfortably ahead is showing signs of concern.

"I've gotta do a better job of making it clear …," Bush has said.

"The closer you get to the election, the more seriously people take this and the less it becomes a popularity contest and the more it becomes a choice for the future of the country. And that, in turn, could play into Gore's strength," said Alan Schroeder of the Northeastern University School of Journalism.

The Bush campaign says it's fighting back and won't let Gore set the agenda. But clearly Gore has set the tone. So, expect more facts and figures from Bush on the stump.