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Gore fights for Florida votes after Bush's numbers rise

Oct. 12, 2000

This week has been a good one for George W. Bush. The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Oct. 9 has Bush leading Al Gore 48 to 41 percent with the margin of error being three percentage points. Pollster John Zogby said, 'Among very volatile 18- to 24-year-olds, Bush leads by 10 points. He also has gained among independents, suburban voters and married voters.' The numbers started moving after last week's first presidential debate. Even though most reporters and analysts claim Gore won the debate, Gore's poll numbers have decreased ever since that debate.

The momentum of the presidential race has shifted to Bush because his campaign had an effective post-debate strategy that honed in on Gore's false statements. In the debate last week, Gore claimed that he accompanied Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt to Parker County during intense fires in the area. The Bush campaign fired back that night, saying Gore had not been to Parker County to observe the fires and he had not been with Witt. In fact, he was flying over the Texas fires on his way to a Democratic fundraiser in Houston.

Gore also promised to stay away from personal attacks, but a Reuters story Tuesday said the Gore campaign has launched a concerted effort to sway Florida voters. This effort includes using

Web sites and commercials in Florida that refer to Bush as a 'bumbler.' The Gore campaign's decision to refer to Bush in sarcastic terms clearly does not sound issue-oriented and shows that Gore's promises cannot be trusted.

The Gore campaign made a critical mistake by not having a specific post-debate strategy. The media was dominated by Bush staffers who all emphasized the same point: Gore stretches the truth.

Media commentators seem surprised that voters have started moving towards Bush. An article in the Oct. 16 issue of Newsweek said, 'Fuzzy math won't cut it for another 90 minutes.' However, the change in the polls shows that Bush's term 'fuzzy math,' a reference to Gore's reliance on numbers in the first debate seemed to resonate with the voters.

Bush is a direct politician and his demeanor appeals to young voters. 'I want you to know what kind of leader I'll be as your president. I am a uniter, not a divider. I will work with Democrats and Republicans to use these good times for great goals I don't need polls to tell me how to think,' Bush said at a recent campaign rally in Missouri. His signature style has many young independent voters thinking twice about voting Republican. Oregon and Washington are two states Gore should have locked up early, but they have become battleground states because the Gore campaign underestimated Bush's ability to draw independent voters.

The Gore campaign needs to realize that the race is not locked up. Despite some mistakes early on, the Bush campaign does have a plan and it seems to be working.

During close presidential races, history shows that the debates have a significant impact on the outcome in November. In 1980, Jimmy Carter had an advantage going into his first presidential debate with Ronald Reagan. Carter was leading Reagan in the popular vote, but the lead in the Gallup poll had changed five times in the few weeks prior to the election. After their first televised debate, Reagan pulled ahead the following week and went on to win the election. Perhaps history will repeat itself.

(BJ Goergen is a senior public relations major from Round Rock. She is a student in public affairs reporting and currently serves as the Texas Director of Students for Bush-Cheney 2000.)