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2 - 8 November 2000
Issue No. 506
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Can you see a difference?

By Thomas Gorguissian

The Presidential race is too close to call and virtually tied. The choice between "likable" Bush and "knowledgeable" Gore is getting tougher. The dead heat race has pushed both campaigns to mobilise in recent days a massive "ground war" in about 14 states. With an estimated $100 million spent this week on political ads and phone banks, both candidates are battling to woo undecided voters.

"There are six or seven demographic groups of voters that both candidates are targeting -- independents, 18- to 24-year-olds, married voters, parents of children living at home, voters over 70," pollster John Zogby told reporters at the Foreign Press Center in Washington.

Gore and Bush

Al Gore and George W Bush

Last weekend, Republican candidate George W Bush called Al Gore "a man who has been in Washington too long." Joe Lieberman, the Vice Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, criticised Bush saying, "Based on Governor Bush's record in Texas ... and based on his plans for the country ... I don't think George W Bush is ready to be president of the United States."

The rhetoric is getting harsh and very personal. Most historians agree that this is the closest election since 1960, when Kennedy won. The Gore campaign is using "scare tactics", which says "you may lose everything if you vote for Bush or waste your vote for Nader."

Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, considered a "spoiler", criticised both candidates, saying, "The two parties are becoming increasingly insignificant ... and you can see they're morphing more and more, on more and more issues, into one corporate party." The 66 year-old consumer advocate is trying to get five per cent of the votes, which will ensure him federal funds for the next elections in 2004.

"Is there any chance that [Nader] would bow out and throw his support to Al Gore? Absolutely, unequivocally, no," said Zogby, adding, "He would not be Ralph Nader if he did that."

In an editorial last Sunday, The New York Times endorsed the Vice President and said his Republican opponent lacked the experience to be the country's leader. "The job description is for commander in chief, not advisee in chief," wrote the newspaper.

Other major American newspapers like The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and The San Francisco Chronicle have also endorsed Gore. The Washington Post wrote, "Gore has shown himself through the years to be a man of good character. He brings a maturity, a soundness of judgment and a balance of priorities that would be reassuring in a leader."

On the opposite front, the Chicago Tribune explained why people are

looking for change: "For the last six years there has been a remarkable disconnect between what has been happening in Washington, DC, and what has been happening in the rest of the

nation," wrote the newspaper. "Washington has been snarling, sniping and griping, turning Americans away from politics and politicians."

Other newspapers, which endorsed the governor of Texas, were The Seattle Times, The Detroit News, The Washington Times and the New York Post. The latest survey by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that nearly 25 per cent of the nation's voters are "swing voters."

Both candidates have been trying in the last few weeks to attract those "swing voters" through popular television talk shows. Women and minorities -- according to the polls -- are leaning toward Gore. Bush's mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, has been trying recently to guarantee the votes of elderly women. Young voters -- between 18 and 24 -- will likely vote for Nader.

"Bush appears to be doing better right now, not only in our polling of Arab Americans but also in terms of discussions among Arab Americans," said Zogby last week. This is mainly for two reasons. First, Bush's mention of Arab Americans during the debate certainly had an impact. Second, there are still doubts over Joe Lieberman's ability to be an honest broker in the Middle East peace process. Arab American voters, especially those who are in Michigan, are an important factor. A recent poll showed Arab Americans to favour Bush over Gore, 40 per cent to 28 per cent, although half of them said their votes could change. According to the Arab American Institute, the Arab American population is 4 per cent to 7 per cent of Michigan's total, there are more than 100,000 registered Arab Americans in Ohio, and nearly 75,000 each in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Given the strong presence and expected pivotal role of this group of voters, a gesture like Hillary Clinton's decision last week to return more than $50,000 in donations to her Senatorial campaign by American Islamic organisations was widely considered "an insult". The issue of the "blood money" was raised by her opponent, Rick Lazio, who said those donations had come from supporters of Hamas and other terrorist groups.

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