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Feisty Gore waves off slippage in Iowa poll

Bring on Bradley for debates, he says

By JEFF ZELENY/ Register Staff Writer

October 21, 1999
Web posted at: 3:06 p.m. EDT (1906 GMT)

DES MOINES, Iowa (Des Moines Register, October 21) -- Vice President Al Gore on Wednesday downplayed a new poll that shows his lead over Bill Bradley is eroding in Iowa, as it has in New Hampshire and other parts of the country.

"The people make the decision," Gore said. "They don't give a hoot what the pollsters and the pundits say."

A poll commissioned by KCCI-TV in Des Moines showed Gore had the support of 43 percent of Democrats likely to participate in next year's caucuses, compared with 40 percent for Bradley. Seventeen percent of the 303 people surveyed said they were undecided. The poll had a 6 percentage-point margin of error.

By comparison, a Des Moines Register Iowa Poll in late June found Gore was the presidential choice of 64 percent of likely Democratic caucus voters. Bradley was the choice of 24 percent, and 12 percent were uncommitted. Other polls from that time suggested that Bradley was unfamiliar to many Democrats.

In a conference call to Iowa reporters Wednesday, Gore said he welcomed the competition with Bradley, a former U.S. senator from New Jersey. Gore renewed his call for regular debates, saying the contests should begin in Iowa with a discussion on agriculture.

"In order to make a close, hard-fought race good for the Democratic Party and good for our country, we ought to really get into a regular discussion of the ideas in a debate format - one a week," Gore said.

Steve Hildebrand, Gore's Iowa campaign manager, criticized Bradley for declining to participate in two agriculture-issue debates in Iowa. But Maureen Monahan, a Bradley spokeswoman, noted that Bradley had already agreed to take part in two general-issue debates in the state.

"Any debate we have in Iowa, agriculture will be an issue," Monahan said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Bradley agreed to debate the vice president in six additional forums nationally, beginning in December. Both Democratic candidates will participate in the Register's debate Jan. 8.

The vice president said he was unfazed by the poll results that showed Bradley would have a better chance than Gore of defeating Texas Gov. George W. Bush in Iowa come November 2000.

The survey showed that Bush would beat Gore 52 percent to 40 percent, with 8 percent undecided, and that Bush would defeat Bradley 48 percent to 43 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

"I've always said, even with the polls that show me way ahead, I don't really believe in polls," Gore said.

Gore said the close race would not force him to move his campaign positions to the political left as he competes with Bradley for the nomination. More liberal Democrats tend to participate in greater numbers in caucuses and primaries.

"It's not going to cause me to change my views," Gore said.


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