Labor Day, Shmabor Day

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For George W. Bush and Al Gore, every day is Labor Day.

The race for the White House is too close and the candidates are too starkly divided on the issues to wait for the traditional start of the campaign season, reports CBS News Correspondent Phil Jones.

Campaign strategists have decided it's too risky to wait for the holiday to pass.

Accordingly, on the issue of health care proposals, Gore told Bush it's "put up or shut up" time.

"It just doesn't sound very presidential to me," said Bush aboard his own plane. Bush was trying to keep his campaign focused on education with the health care broadside was fired.

Normally, this kind of sniping is reserved for later in the season, when voters have returned from the beach. So why so much intensity so early?

"This is the first time I can remember … that every little thing is going to make a difference. Both sides know that, and they're playing for keeps," says political analyst Charles Cook.

At the same time, a massive air war is heating up, with each candidate spending millions on television ads. Much of the ad money in recent days has gone toward the battle over the candidates' prescription drug proposals.

That issue is also seen by the Democrats as a possible way to make inroads in Florida, where Bush's brother is governor. The Sunshine State will be a tough trick to turn for Gore, but he feels his trump card is the prescription drug issue.

That's not the only bitter sideshow to this gloves-off campaign. The two sides are currently squabbling over when and where and how to hold presidential debates. So far, Bush says he'll debate Gore in primetime, but he won't commit to a format.

"We're in the process right now of discussing the times with the different networks," Bush said.

The day-to-day combat is so intense, the campaigns are not even revealing where they will be on Labor Day. They are treating their itineraries like critical secrets.

One upshot of all this, analysts say, is the Democrats and Republicans are drawing attention away from Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader. At this point, the major parties are not particularly worried about third-party insurgencies, analysts say.