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Gore <i>PUSH</i>es For Minority Votes

Al Gore tells minority group leaders that "talk is cheap" in advising them not to back George W. Bush, who hopes they will ignore traditional partisan alliances and support this year's Republican ticket for the White House.

Democrat Gore's theme, in an appearance at Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's annual convention in Chicago on Wednesday, is that "actions speak louder than words."

The vice president will argue that minorities should carefully examine Bush's record before submitting to his "compassionate conservative" pitch.

As Republicans prepare for their national convention next week in Philadelphia, Gore will argue that Bush will stage a "feel good, photo op convention" to hide GOP opposition to bedrock issues such as increasing the minimum wage, bolstering schools and expanding health care to the working poor.

Gore is working overtime to argue that Bush's soothing rhetoric on issues like race relations masks a hostile record to minorities and the poor.

The vice president's efforts to shore up backing among minority groups traditionally friendly to Democrats is a key dynamic in this year's election. Bush has sought - with some success - to appeal to those groups and is likely to make that a theme of his party's convention.

Still, a new poll finds Gore with solid support among black and Hispanic voters. The ABC News-Washington Post survey released Tuesday finds that the vice president is backed by eight of 10 blacks and six of 10 Hispanics.

So on Wednesday, Gore plans to remind those voters of the political record of his Republican rival at the board meeting of Operation PUSH.

"You know, from hard history and long struggle that talk is cheap, deeds are what counts," Gore's prepared remarks read. "The true test is whether you are willing to stand up and fight for real jobs and real opportunities for all our people."

Some strategists worry that Gore's focus on nailing down the backing of traditional Democratic groups like minorities and labor is a sign of weakness, because they should already be in his camp. But the vice president has been taking no chances in recent days, sounding sharply partisan themes designed to solidify his base.

In Chicago, Gore also plans to return to one of his campaign's core themes: Bush's record as Texas governor has favored the wealthy and privileged at the expense of workers and the poor.

The vice president has argued in recent days that Texas' budget problems were caused by big tax cuts and have led to budget shortfalls and spending cuts on programs aiding the poor.

Since Bush picked former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate, it has opened the door for Gore to charge that both members of the GOP ticket have ties to the oil industry - another theme of Gore's argument on Wednesday.

Echoing the refrain of an old union organizing song, a repeated riff in Gore's speech is to ask minority leaders to examine Bush's recod and decide "which side is he on?"

The Rev. Jesse Jackson of Operation PUSH will also speak at the gathering, which is billed as "building the gap, moving from margin to mainstream." Jackson and the PUSH Coalition are important leaders in Midwestern battleground states such as Illinois.

Jackson has regularly argued, in private life and in repeat presidential bids, that civil rights and economics are intertwined. Gore makes the case that minority groups would be far better off under his administration than under Bush, regardless of the rhetoric coming from the two camps.

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