Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Courting the undecided

Swing vote could be key

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Democratic Party officials were right when they said the three presidential debates would help sway undecided voters — though perhaps not the way they predicted.

        Since the summer's politi cal conventions, the party's spin went something like this: Vice President Al Gore's superior debating skills, his mastery of issues and his vast policy experience would lead him to pummel Republican George W. Bush in their nationally televised encounters.

        But interviews with doz ens of Tristate residents who were undecided before the debates indicate that Mr. Bush, the governor of Texas, may have picked up support because of how well he performed against Mr. Gore.

        “He just presented himself so well in the debates,” said Rose Mallory, 47, of Okeana in Butler County. “I came

        away liking him a whole lot more than Gore.

        “I'm just worried Gore wants too much government when it comes to schools and guns and (health) insurance. He just goes too far. Bush is more for people.”

        Marcie Tanner of Wilder, Ky., a 35-year-old mother of two, said she watched portions of all three debates and came away ready to vote for Mr. Bush.

        “I'm concerned about the things they were talking about, like the social issues and anything that has to do with kids and health care,” Mrs. Tanner said.

        “But there's not one general issue that makes me want to go with Bush. It was just that in the debates I found him very likable and personable,” she said.

        Most national polls have Mr. Bush leading slightly or in a statistical dead heat with Mr. Gore.

        A Rasmussen Research “Portrait of America” Internet tracking poll performed Thursday through Sunday by interviewing 3,000 likely voters across the country found 6 percent of voters undecided.

        In Kentucky, 10 percent of the voters are undecided, according to the Rasmussen survey.

        But according to an Ohio Poll conducted Oct. 18-25 by interviewing 666 likely voters, only 2 percent of Ohio voters are undecided, with Mr. Bush ahead by 8 points, 50 percent to 42 percent.

        Eric Rademacher of the Univer sity of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research, which conducted the Ohio Poll, said the undecideds are low in Ohio because the state has received so much attention from the presidential campaigns.

        “In some parts of the nation the polls have higher numbers of undecided because there are many states receiving very little attention compared to Ohio,” Mr. Rademacher said. “It's easier for people in Ohio to decide because we've had so many campaign appearances and so much media advertising.”

        It was a visit to Middletown from Mr. Gore that helped persuade Angie Mitchell how to vote.

        “My daughter helped me make up my mind,” said Mrs. Mitchell, 34, of Middletown. “Al Gore came to my daughter's school. That got me looking at him real close, and I like what I've been hearing about his health plan and education, especially when I compare it to what Bush wants to do.”

        Newport resident Tina Rechtin, 48, has followed the election closely but was swayed after watching the debates.

        “They both promise a lot, but they can't really do anything unless they get cooperation from Congress,” Mrs. Rechtin said.

        At The Kiln in Hyde Park, where customers work with ceramics, employee Sue Brown, 50, of Oakley is going to vote for Mr. Gore.

        “Frankly, I don't see a lot of difference between the two,” Ms. Brown said. “But I feel more comfortable with (Mr. Gore.) His experience is important to me, and I do like what I hear about education from him.”

        Yet co-worker Meagan Fay, 24, of Mount Washington is not sure how she will cast her vote.

        “For me it's more issues than personalities,” Ms. Fay said. “But I still can't decide whose ideas I like better.”


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