Mad Dash To The Finish

Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore, left, and his running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., run along the streets of Chilton, Wis., to greet supporters during a brief stop on their Great Lakes Prosperity Tour, Monday, Oct. 30, 2000. No stranger to nonstop campaigning, Gore is picking up the pace even further, dashing from coast to coast in a blitz running straight through election day.
George W. Bush and Al Gore hit the hustings again Wednesday, putting in long days of speechmaking and handshaking in an attempt to energize their supporters and maybe even win over some new ones.

Statistically speaking, the men are virtually tied in a new CBS News poll, which gives Bush a one-point edge, 44 percent to 43 percent.

Campaigning in the swing state of Minnesota, Bush and his wife Laura were greeted by thousands of vocal supporters at a Minneapolis airplane hangar. Before a huge banner heralding Bush's home stretch theme, "Bringing America Together," the GOP nominee promised the rowdy rallyers, "We're going to carry Minnesota! You mark my word!"

He "proudly" defended his record as Texas governor, and continued to identify Gore with the "bitterness and stalemate" of partisan politics in Washington.

To make the point that Gore will spend the federal surplus like a drunken sailor, Bush unveiled a new prop, an eight-foot-high list of "over 285 plans, new programs or expanded programs" that the governor says his rival has promised during the campaign.

Bush said a Gore administration would mean "spending without discipline, spending without priorities and spending without end."

At a late rally in Duluth, Minn., Bush was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of about 8,000 — one of the best turnouts of his campaign — at an ice skating rink.

"Coming down the stretch, I need your help," Bush said to boisterous cheers.

Gore, in Florida, expressed a slightly different view of the candidates' priorities.

At rallies in Kissimmee and Tampa, the vice president attacked Bush's Social Security plan and his record on the environment in Texas.

Speaking to a Tampa crowd about the environment, Gore promised a ban on new drilling off the coast of Florida, and reminded the audience of Bush's intention to open an Alaska wilderness to oil drilling. "Do you want someone who wants drilling in the Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge deciding whether to drill off of Florida?" Gore asked.

"Sometimes you have to think not just of the next six days, but the next six decades," he said.

Wednesday morning in Kissimmee, Gore told a cheering crowd that Social Security is a "sacred trust" that "links each American generation to the next." But in a Bush administration, Gore warned, Social Security would be a "grab bag where everyone is out for himself."

Bush’s Social Security plan would allow younger workers to put some of their entitlement in low-risk stock market investments. Bush argues that even the most conservative investments will beat the government’s two percent yield.

The Texas governor had long been thought to have a lock on Florida, the richest of the battleground states, where his younger brother Jeb is governor. But Gore has managed to make big strides in the state in recent months, and currentlleads in the polls.

Both parties' number twos were also campaigning in the Sunshine State on Wednesday. Bush’s running mate Dick Cheney, appearing with retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, guaranteed that in a Bush-Cheney administration there will be "no change whatsoever" in Social Security benefits for those at or near retirement age.

Gore’s running mate Joe Lieberman told Hallandale, Fla., firefighters that Bush is trying to "fuzz over the differences" between the Republican and Democratic plans for saving Social Security.

In the last couple of weeks, Gore has reduced his argument against the Bush Social Security plan to simple math.

Bush, he says, has promised the same trillion dollars from the surplus to two different groups of Americans, pitting "generation against generation."

Gore claims the $1 trillion of the anticipated 10-year Social Security surplus that Bush needs to cover the cost of the transition to the private investment plan for younger workers will come out of the benefits paid to current retirees and those entering the system today.

Gore’s critique, which usually focuses on the Bush plan's implications for older voters, included warnings for middle-aged workers too: "Even if the stock market does well, almost none of them would have enough time to make up in private savings what they would lose in Social Security benefits."

Gore asked a Purple Heart winner of the World War II generation in the audience to stand for applause, then promised that the older generation "will get the benefits they earned and no one should be able to cut those benefits or take them away."

Bush, who’s been complaining since the debates about Gore’s "scare" tactics on Social Security and Medicare, is answering theatrics like that with a new television ad that says Gore is "bending the truth again."

The spot reminds viewers that vice president has played fast and loose with the details before, when he said his mother-in-law's arthritis prescription cost more than the same medication when prescribed for the Gore family pooch.

Late Wednesday, Gore landed in Scranton, Pa. to visit a long-defunct iron furnace in an effort to light a fire beneath both supporters and undecided Pennsylvania voters in the final days of the campaign.