On the scene with Candy Crowley with the Bush campaign
CNN.com talked with Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, who is traveling with Texas Gov. George W. Bush in Florida.
Q: What are the main themes Bush is highlighting in these final weeks?
CROWLEY: In large part, it depends on what state he's in. In Florida, Bush is clearly talking to seniors. He's talking prescription drugs and his plan versus Al Gore's. He talks about Social Security, and he talks about Medicare. He is also being accompanied by his brother, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, who seems to have been designed the duty of rousing the base. At rallies, Gov. Jeb Bush gets up and tells the crowd, "I've told my brother he's going to carry Florida. You're going to help me. I need to you to get out there and vote for him."
George Bush is also traveling the state with John McCain. Clearly McCain is a man of enormous popularity among independents. But more than that, there is a growing number of veterans in Florida and McCain is touting Bush and Cheney as the steady hand on the tiller of foreign policy. So McCain is taking on the veterans and military voters, while Bush is aiming at the seniors.
Q: What is the general mood in the Bush camp?
CROWLEY: The Bush camp has been in a pretty steady mood for most of the time this year.
Q: Is there any sense of urgency in these final weeks?
CROWLEY: Absolutely, the adrenaline runs high in the final weeks. I mean, this is your last shot. If you're going to move people, you have to move them now. Certainly, Florida is considered a must win state for George W. Bush. It's very hard to put the electoral map together without Florida. There's a sense of urgency, there's certainly a sense of adrenaline running, but there's not sense of worry or fear.
This isn't a campaign that tends to have a candidate who shows any signs of worry. Bush's aides say we have a plan in place, we've had a plan in place for 1 1/2 years and we're executing the last two weeks of it. Obviously, they know these polls are as tight as we all know they are.
What's interesting is that Bush is traveling into states, with the exception of Florida, that ordinarily you don't think of as Republican states. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Iowa. ...
Q: Were they taking any pleasure at all that Gore today was campaigning in his home state of Tennessee, which a year ago would've seemed completely improbable?
CROWLEY: Sure. If you're running a race, you want your opponent to be fighting for his base. If you look at the Gore schedule, there certainly are a lot of states that you would typically think of as his base. Gore's not fighting for Republican territory; he's fighting for what people think of as Democratic territory. It's not to say George Bush will take these states, but that they're in play.
Q: What does the Bush camp see as Gore's greatest vulnerabilities, and are they trying to expose those?
CROWLEY: The general theme that they think has a lot of resonance, certainly among conservatives and swing voters, is that Al Gore is Big Government Guy. In nearly every stop, Bush casts Al Gore as a big government guy who will bloat the bureaucracy and deflate the economy. That's one thing they are zeroing in on. I will also say that most everything fits into that basic framework. ... For instance, Bush does it on the monetary side, saying Gore is going to bankrupt us, spending so much money promising so many things, and seriously harming prosperity and bringing it down.
This also plays very well in the South, in those states where Bush is still fighting, particularly in Tennessee, which he would dearly like to have because it is Al Gore's home state. No president or candidate has lost his home state since George McGovern lost South Dakota in 1972 . So it's sort of a territorial imperative, a psychological victory that Bush would like to have. In the South, they think the big government thing has resonance among those voters who are still sitting on the fence.