Friday, August 25, 2000

McConnell: Gore weak in N.Ky


Republican senator cites ad, candidates' visits to state

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The Democratic presidential ticket of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman continues to show signs it doesn't think Kentucky is a winnable state in the November election, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

        According to Mr. McConnell, the latest indication is a biography television ad that the Gore campaign is running in only one far western Kentucky city, Paducah.

        Republican candidates George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have visited the state far more frequently than Mr. Gore, Mr. McCon nell said after a late afternoon speech he gave at The Madison banquet facility to members of the Covington Business Council.

        “The fact that Bush has made eight (campaign) stops in Kentucky, Cheney has made one and Gore made one led me to wonder whether they were going to compete in Kentucky,” said Mr. McConnell, Mr. Bush's campaign chairman in Kentucky.

        But Mr. McConnell said that by advertising only in Paducah, the Gore campaign may be trying to reach voters in Illinois and Missouri, two states bordering Kentucky near Paducah that are considered battleground areas in the election.

        “But I don't know how they win without Kentucky,” Mr. McConnell said. “Can Gore write off Kentucky and win? I don't know. You have to get to 270 (electoral votes) to win and it's hard for me to see ... how they get to 270 without Kentucky.”

        Kentucky has eight electoral votes.

        Mr. Bush's Austin, Texas, campaign office was quick to make the same point.

        “It appears as though Al Gore will not be running in the commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Bob Hopkins, a Bush campaign spokesman. “He is essentially writing off the state. Maybe they feel like they don't have a shot at winning the state.”

        But the spokesman for Mr. Gore's Kentucky campaign said the Democrats have no intention of conceding Kentucky to the Republicans.

        Jonathan Beeton, a Gore campaign press secretary working out of state Democratic headquarters in Frankfort, said Mr. McConnell and the Bush campaign are making too much of where ads are running.

        “They are just trying to find something to talk about,” Mr. Beeton said Thursday. “Kentucky is a very important state to Al Gore. Al Gore does not need a road map to find Kentucky from growing up next door and being in Congress in the state of Tennessee.”

        Citing campaign strategy, Mr. Beeton would not comment on when and where the campaign will run ads in the state. Northern Kentucky residents have been seeing the same ad running in Paducah — a biography on Mr. Gore's life — because it is running on Cincinnati television stations.

        But Mr. Beeton said Kentucky — which has gone with the last nine winners of presidential campaigns — is among a number of states targeted by the Democrats for victory.

        He said the same ad running in Paducah has been placed in several other hotly contested states, including Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio.

        “You'll see the Gores and Liebermans in (Kentucky) before the end of the campaign,” Mr. Beeton said.

        Mr. McConnell said another sign of Mr. Gore's weakness in Kentucky can be found by looking at U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat running for reelection this fall and originally a delegate to last week's Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

        Mr. Lucas made news first by saying he would abstain when it came time for Kentucky to cast its delegate votes for Mr. Gore, and then by deciding to stay home and not attend the convention.

        “I like the way Ken votes for the most part,” Mr. McConnell said. “He's one of a handful of conservative Democrats in the House ... but it tells you he is running from Al Gore like a scalded dog as far and as fast as he can.

        “Because usually the bare minimum you do in our line of work is to say you support the ticket, and my guess is (Mr. Lucas) will say that at some point,” he said. “But he hasn't said it yet .... and that is an indication that he knows Mr. Bush is going to carry his congressional district.”

       



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