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Gore, Bush making last-ditch sprints in 'tossup' states

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush and Democratic nominee Al Gore engaged in a frantic, eleventh-hour push for votes on Monday's last campaigning day of Election 2000 as state and national polls indicated a tight presidential race might be growing even tighter.

Bush and Gore
 

Gore kicked off the morning with a rally in Waterloo, Iowa, then went to St. Louis, Missouri, and Flint, Michigan. In an itinerary that spanned more than 16 hours, the vice president was also scheduled to stump Monday night in Florida, where he would mark the arrival of the first hours of election Tuesday before retiring to Nashville, Tennessee, for the remainder of the day.

Bush's schedule was full as well, with the Texas governor launching a five-state swing that included rallies in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Davenport, Iowa. Before his day ends late Monday night in the Lone Star State, Bush is scheduled to make an additional stop in President Clinton's home state of Arkansas.

Both candidates were determined to make every moment count Monday. Polls remained close, with Bush maintaining a slight advantage in major national surveys.

"My opponent promised to carry his home state. He may win Washington, D.C., but he's not going to win Tennessee," Bush said at a rally in Chattanooga, referring to Gore's many years in the nation's capital. Gore is a former Tennessee congressman and senator.

Bush
Texas Gov. George W. Bush makes a last-minute campaign stop to Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Monday  

Tennessee is one of a handful of states still up for grabs with just hours to go before polls open nationwide. A Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters on the vice president's home turf, released Sunday, showed Bush with 49 percent support to Gore's 45 percent.

"I like what I feel, but we can't take anything for granted. We have to work hard to turn out that vote," Bush said.

Bush played to what he hopes is his strongest issue, pushing his wide-ranging tax cut package. He attacked Gore's plan for targeted tax cuts, "which stands in stark contrast to our position: If you pay income taxes, you should get relief."

He promised that a married couple making $50,000 a year would get a "50 percent cut in your taxes" when he is president.

At his afternoon rally in Green Bay, Bush pledged the Clinton-Gore era would be brought to an end in less than 24 hours.

"In one day, we're going to end the Clinton-Gore administration in Washington and have new leadership," he told some 3,000 supporters at a Green Bay convention center before urging them to "redouble your efforts to get out the vote."

Wisconsin, which might normally fall to the Democrats in a general election year, is now in the tossup column, due to some degree to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader's strong base of support there.

"I want you to understand that I can't do it without you," Bush said in Green Bay.

Bush
Gov. Bush visits the tossup state of Wisconsin on the final day of campaigning  

In Iowa, another tossup state, Bush told a Davenport audience Monday evening that he understood local agriculture and how a the current tax system can affect family farmers.

"We need to get rid of the death tax," Bush said, arguing that the federal inheritance tax endangers a number of family farms when their main proprietor passes away.

"How many of you pay federal income taxes?" Bush added to huge cheer and show of hands. "Then you'll get relief. Under our plan, everybody who pays taxes gets tax relief."

The vice president's last full day on the stump

Gore too was upbeat when he made his own Iowa appearance on Monday morning. Iowa hosted the first major nominating event of the year -- the state's caucuses -- in January, and Gore's victory there was the beginning of the end for his only major Democratic opponent, former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

"Once again, it's in your hands, and I know it's in good hands," Gore told supporters in Waterloo.

Tipper and Al Gore
Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper address supporters in Waterloo, Iowa, on Monday  

Iowans are usually expected to turn toward the Democrats in a general election year, but Bush is giving Gore a thorough run there. A new poll released Sunday by the Des Moines Register gave Gore a 44 percent to 42 percent lead over Bush. The poll had a 3.5 percent margin of error.

In a brief appearance at a John Deere tractor plant, as the morning shift reported for work, Gore used a quote popular with the labor movement to remind supporters that he needed them. "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and organize," he told the crowd.

"We're out here in front of the John Deere plant here in Iowa, in Waterloo, and the people here are wanting to keep our prosperity going and they want to extend it to include everyone. I think that's the principal issue in this election," said Gore.

Asked about the tightness of the race, Gore said, "I think everybody has concluded that we have the momentum now, and I think the other side knows that, too."

At a St. Louis rally later in the day, Gore blasted Bush's record on child health care in Texas.

Gephardt and Gore
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, left, joins Vice President Gore for a campaign stop in St. Louis, on Monday  

Though Texas has 1.4 million children without health insurance, the vice president said, Bush refused to use a state budget surplus to combat child poverty. Instead, Gore said Bush used the money for "a special interest tax cut."

"His top priority was a tax cut for the oil industry, which he labeled as an emergency," Gore said.

And later in Flint, Michigan, home to a large contingent of United Auto Workers members, Gore said he was a friend to organized labor, and would remain so.

"You are my friends and you have showed it over and over again," Gore said. "I am your friend, and I will be your friend." A Gore administration, he said, would see that labor's voice was heard.

Ever-tighter polling numbers

With the election just hours away, the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup tracking poll indicated Gore gaining slightly on Bush among likely voters polled. Bush drew 47 percent of those polled compared with Gore's 45 percent -- a two-point gain for Gore and a one-point slide for Bush. Other national polls showed a similar trend, while some state polls were beginning to close up Monday afternoon.

Three states thought to be too close to call -- New Hampshire, New Mexico and Minnesota -- began to show 'leaning' trends Monday toward a particular candidate, according to new state polling data.

Gov. Bush and his wife Laura include Davenport, Iowa among their last campaign stops  

New Hampshire, a state friendly to Republicans, now looks to be leaning toward Bush, while New Mexico and Minnesota reflect polling trends toward the vice president. The Bush campaign had set its sights on New Mexico, which borders Bush's home state of Texas.

The electoral map is shaping up with Bush nearly certain to secure support throughout vast swaths of the South, with Tennessee and the electoral vote-rich prize of Florida still listed as toss-ups.

Gore's support, meanwhile, is centered mostly on the coasts. He is nearly assured to win the essential states of California and New York, and much of the Northeast is leaning toward the vice president. Gore's campaign is also counting on winning Illinois.

That leaves a good number of states still to be decided, including the pivotal Sunshine State -- which both candidates will have hit by the time their campaigns wind down early Tuesday -- Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

In Michigan, where Republican Gov. John Engler has mounted an impressive state effort for Bush, the latest Detroit News poll finds Gore with a 46 percent lead over Bush's 41 percent. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is running at 3 percent.

Gore
Vice President Gore makes a final effort to rally voters in Flint, Michigan  

In Missouri, an American Research group poll released over the weekend indicated Gore had a one point lead over Bush -- 46 percent to 45 percent -- and in Pennsylvania, home of another Republican governor who has campaigned exhaustively for Bush, a Mason-Dixon poll indicates Gore has a 48 percent to 45 percent lead over Bush.

And in Florida, despite the efforts of Bush's younger brother Jeb, the state's GOP governor, the race was still too close to call on Monday.

Nader, Buchanan stay active

As Bush and Gore continued their cross-country sprints, two prominent third-party candidates labored to boost their post-election profiles in the hours before the election, and to position their parties for the 2002 midterm election, and the 2004 general election.

In an interview with CNN, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader said his party is the fastest growing in America and will field "thousands of candidates, not hundreds" in elections in 2002.

"We're going to do what the majority of people really like even if they aren't going to vote for a third party, which is to establish a viable third party to keep those two parties (Democrats and Republicans) honest in the future. It is that watchdog function that is so critical," Nader said.

The latest CNN polls show Nader with about 4 percent of the vote.

Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, who is drawing 1 percent of the vote in CNN polling, said conservatives have told him, "Pat, whatever we do we have to get rid of Gore. So, we're going to have to vote for Bush to get rid of him."

Asked about a Bush win, Buchanan said, "If there is another Bush in the White House, there will be another Buchanan watchdog right outside the White House."

Reuters contributed to this report.

 


 VIDEO
Vice President Al Gore and friends make a last minute stop in Miami (November 7)

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Vice President Al Gore makes a last minute stop in Miami (November 7)

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Vice President Al Gore makes a last minute stop in Miami (November 7)

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Bush addresses supporters in Green Bay, Wisconsin: Part 1

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Gore addresses supporters in St. Louis: Part 1

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CNN's Pat Neal is on the campaign trail with Ralph Nader (November 6)

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CNN's Chris Black breaks down the race for open seats in the Senate (November 5)

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CNN's Christy Feig gives an overview of what special interest groups could mean to the U.S. elections (November 5)

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