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Gore gets nod from YouthVote 2000

Oct. 19, 2000

B.J. GOERGEN

Reporter

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Presidential contenders Al Gore and George W. Bush expressed several differences in their third and final presidential debate here Tuesday night, but they shared one common focus: trying to reach voters who are straddling the political fence.

'Young people are a huge percentage of undecided voters,' said John Dervin, communications director for YouthVote 2000, a non-partisan organization committed to getting young people engaged in this election. 'In fact, the youth vote could be the margin of victory in many battleground states.'

YouthVote 2000 sponsored a focus group of youth voters during Tuesday's debate, and some participants thought Gore's most persuasive responses in the debate were on questions of education, health care choice and gun control. Bush's highest scores from the group came when he discussed military preparedness and ending the bitterness in Washington.

Overall, participants thought Gore connected more to students on the issues than did Bush.

'Character is more important to me than the issues,' said Rob Brockhaus, an independent voter and recent graduate of Saint Louis University in Missouri. 'I thought Bush did a better job of answering why young people are turned off to politics.'

Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo) said he thought Gore's programs appealed to young voters.

'Gore is for an education policy that benefits young people,' he said.

Gephardt also emphasized the importance of both candidates capturing the undecided vote.

'This debate was the kickoff for the last three weeks,' he said. 'Gore is going to work 20 hours a day to win a close race.'

Governor Christie Todd Whitman (R-NJ) disagreed with Gore's education policy. In response to Gephardt she said, 'Bush has a record of delivering on his programs; the changes in education really made a difference [in Texas].'

Both camps have plans to sway undecided voters as they head toward Election Day. The Bush campaign is sending Barbara, Bush's mother and former first lady of the United States, and Laura Bush, Bush's wife, across swing states to sway women voters. Gore said he will focus on the economy in Iowa and Michigan.

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