Sunday, October 08, 2000

Gore's Ky. strategy uncertain

Recent poll shows Bush ahead

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DANVILLE, Ky. - When will William Daley, Al Gore's campaign manager, know whether his candidate has spent enough time campaigning in Kentucky?

        “I'll tell you on Election Day,” Mr. Daley said Thursday night, after the vice presidential debate at Centre College between Democrat Joe Lieberman and Republican Dick Cheney.

        Mr. Gore has made two trips to Kentucky this year, compared with six visits by his Republican rival George W. Bush.

        Mr. Daley would not commit to any more visits here before the Nov. 7 election. The reason: Democrats are trailing in Kentucky, a state Bill Clinton and Mr. Gore carried in the last two elections, and may not be able to win here.

        “Kentucky has been a tough state obviously, polling-wise,” Mr. Daley conceded Thursday night.

        The latest statewide presidential poll, conducted last month by the Courier-Journal of Louisville, showed Mr. Bush with a 10-point lead, 51 percent to 41 percent. Five percent of those polled were undecided.

        But Mr. Daley also said that if the gap closes after the next two presidential debates, Oct. 11 and Oct. 17, then Mr. Gore could make a return visit to Kentucky.

        “We hope to see some movement after the last debate, and if we do and that justifies spending some money and time, we'll do it. I've talked to the governor (Paul Patton) and Charlie Owen, our Kentucky campaign chairman, and they think the lead can be closed here,” Mr. Daley said.

        “They can still win it here in Kentucky,” said former Kentucky U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, an Owensboro Democrat who retired in 1996 after 24 years in Washington.

        “I've seen some polling done by the Democrats, and it's closer that you think. It's single digits,” Mr. Ford said.

        Mr. Bush has made 10 public appearances during his six visits to Kentucky this year. He will probably be back in the state before the election ends, said Karen Hughes, his campaign spokeswoman.

        But Ms. Hughes argues that it's Mr. Bush's platform, not his campaign appearances, that has him leading in the state.

        “Clearly he has been here a great deal,” Ms. Hughes said after the vice presidential debate. “But judging from people's response during those visits, he is going to win Kentucky because of his position on the issues.

        “It's because of his plan to save Social Security for future generations, and to improve public schools and to rebuild the military,” she said. “Those are issues that really resonate here.”

        Even though Kentucky has just eight electoral votes, it is considered a swing state that was up for grabs when the election started. Kentucky is also viewed as a prize since voters here have chosen the winning candidate in the last nine elections.

        And leaders from both campaigns say that with the race as tight as it is nationally — most polls show the candidates at near dead even — every electoral vote is going to count on Election Day.

        Mr. Daley said the Gore campaign will base its future road trips and campaign appearances on how Kentucky fits into the Democrats' overall strategy.

        “You've got to build an electoral base to win, and you've got to make some judgments,” he said. “And sometimes there are tough judgements for states that aren't close enough at this point to justify big expenditures of time and money.

        “But we hope that isn't the case” after the presidential debate Oct. 17, Mr. Daley said.


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