Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Gore to make stop in Lexington

VP will explain retirement plan

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Democrat Al Gore is finally bringing his presidential campaign to Kentucky.

        Mr. Gore is scheduled to spend about six hours today in Lexington. During a 1 p.m. speech at Heritage Hall downtown, the vice president will unveil a government-matched savings investment plan that would operate independently of So cial Security.

        “I think he is running a good campaign, and I'm glad he's coming to Kentucky,” said Betty Roth, a longtime Boone County Democratic Party activist.

        Other Democrats say Mr. Gore has to do a better job of connecting with voters and he may not be conservative enough for Northern Kentucky.

        Republicans say Mr. Gore is well behind GOP candidate George W. Bush in making campaign visits to Kentucky, a swing state in the November presidential election.

        Mr. Bush, the governor of Texas, was in central Kentucky last week raising money for the Republican Party. In May he attended the Kentucky Derby and made a bus swing through western Kentucky.

        While Mr. Gore's wife,

        Tipper, campaigned for her husband in Louisville last month, Mr. Gore has not yet made an official campaign visit to Kentucky, a state he and President Clinton carried in the 1992 and 1996 elections.

        “If (Mr. Gore) needs directions around Kentucky, maybe he can call the Bush campaign since Gov. Bush has been here three times in the last six weeks,” said Kentucky Republican Party Vice Chairman Damon Thayer of Scott County.

        “Kentuckians like George Bush. They like what they see and they see a lot of him these days,” Mr. Thayer said.

        Kentucky Democrats are hardly pushing the panic button over Mr. Gore's campaign. They say it's early in the political process and most voters won't even begin focusing on the race until after the parties' nominating conventions in August.

        Party leaders point to Mr. Gore's experience, the strength of the economy and the job performed by the Clinton administration in balancing the federal budget as high points of the vice president's campaign.

        “Take President Reagan's test, which he used when he was twice elected,” said Louisville businessman Charlie Owen, the chairman of Mr. Gore's Kentucky campaign.

        “Ronald Reagan asked if we were better off than we were four years ago,” Mr. Owen said Monday. “The vice president will ask that question, and we can answer that we are better economically.”

        But Democrats are aware that Mr. Gore is trailing Mr. Bush in national polls, and that Mr. Gore has gone through another reinvention by changing campaign managers during a visit to Cincinnati last week.

        “The biggest challenge he has is to connect with the voters on a personal basis,” Mr. Owen said. “And I think that is challenge No. 1, because on issues and results he looks pretty good stacked up against George Bush.”

        Fort Thomas resident Terry Mann, a former state lawmaker and veteran member of the Campbell County Democratic Executive Committee, said changing campaign managers is not necessarily the wrong move.

        “I'm not so sure you won't see this happen in presidential campaigns from now on,” Mr. Mann said Monday. “You need a certain kind of leadership in the early stages of the campaign when you're getting organized and raising money, and somebody to come in to take the campaign home.

        “To me, it was a good move,” he said.

        Mr. Gore might have a hard time persuading conservative Northern Kentucky Democrats as well as Republicans to vote for him, said Covington lawyer Chris Mehling, a member of the Kenton County Democratic Executive Committee.

        “He's not going to be on the issue of (abortion) where he needs to be for us conservative Democrats and others here in Northern Kentucky,” Mr. Mehling said, noting that Mr. Gore favors abortion rights.

        “He needs to reflect conservative family values. That's the message we need to be hearing from him,” he said.


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