From email@example.com Tue Oct 24 21:04:46 2000
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2000 22:59:23 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Bore/Gush Choice Leaves Most Disappointed, Disgusted
Voters Are Tuning In, Turning Sour. People express disappointment
with Bush, Gore; 'Like a fraternity election'
By Jonathan Weisman, in the Baltimore Sun,
Sunday 22 October 2000
WASHINGTON - From the ethnic salad bowl of Southern California to
the leafy suburbs of Maryland's Harford County, many of the nation's
voters appear to be eyeing Election Day with disappointment,
dissatisfaction and even disgust for two presidential candidates
who still have not won their confidence.
A consensus seems to have taken hold that George W. Bush lacks the
qualifications - and, some say, the intellect - for the presidency,
while Al Gore lacks honesty and personal appeal.
In dozens of recent conversations with Sun reporters, voters across
the country used many of the same words to sum up their feelings.
Their votes, they said, would be cast without enthusiasm for the
man they viewed as the less objectionable candidate.
Sun reporters had spoken with the same voters in early summer about
the nation's direction during the Clinton era and about the future.
In general, the electorate seemed more at ease then with its
prosperity and content with its choices.
As voters have tuned into the presidential campaign, they have
turned notably sour. Those negative sentiments might help explain
the fluidity of recent presidential polling. Because support for
both candidates seems relatively tepid, minor events, or even shifts
in the tone of news coverage, have been able to shift the momentum
of the race, as measured by the polls.
"It's two over-privileged guys duking it out for the most important
office in the world," said Barry Martin, a 61-year-old bookstore
owner in Pasadena, Calif. "It's like a fraternity election - two
guys running for president of the frat."
Even partisans are showing queasiness about their choices. On Wall
Street, Mike McCarty, a registered Republican who has never wavered
in his support for Bush, nevertheless indicated that he would vote
Nov. 7 with little cheer.
"Being a Republican, I'm going to vote for G. W.," said McCarty,
who works for the National Association of Securities Dealers. "But
I'm going to be hesitant pulling the lever, because he doesn't
inspire any kind of confidence for me."
Trent Broadwater, a cabinetmaker in Dundalk, said he will vote for
Gore, certain that the vice president is the candidate of the
working man. But he understands why so many of his working-class
neighbors are unmoved by Gore.
"He just doesn't look as strong and young and vital as Bush,"
Broadwater said. "He looks almost paranoid."
A positive campaign
The presidential campaign of 2000 has been fought on remarkably
positive terms. Complex issues have been debated in detail.
Mudslinging has been kept to a minimum. And even negative advertising
has stuck largely to the issues.
>From Social Security to prescription drug coverage to tax cuts,
the election has been fought largely over the candidates' promises
and substantive proposals, not over past indiscretions or loaded
labels such as "liberal" or "extremist."
Yet the nuances of the candidates' positions on key issues seem to
have gone unnoticed by many voters.
"I haven't seen anything addressed that I felt was important," said
Jef Judin, co-founder of an Internet networking company in Jackson,
Miss. "It's more politics as usual. I've been disappointed."
If they haven't absorbed the debate over issues, it follows that
voters might instead weigh the candidates' personal qualities above
all, something that could spell trouble for Gore. The vice president
is still widely seen as the less likable and trustworthy of the
"I don't know who Gore really is," said Elliot Herskowitz, 71, a
former Wall Street trader who retired to the Chapel Hill area of
North Carolina. "As for Bush, I think his father did a magnificent
job in the gulf war. If his dad could do it, well, he looks a lot
like him - maybe there's something in the genes."
That perception has made it difficult for Gore to gain traction in
the campaign, even when the issues seem to favor him. Though Gore's
positions are often more in line with the voters', many say they
do not think he will deliver.
Emmett Schindell, a retired laborer and registered Republican in
Dundalk, said that this summer, he was so fed up with both major
parties that he was considering a vote for Ralph Nader, the Green
Then, he said, he was stricken with what he delicately called "the
medical thing." Four months ago, he was fighting pneumonia. Then
he was told he had lung cancer.
Schindell said he has reached the limit of his $6,000 yearly
insurance coverage for prescription drugs and has had to dip into
his Social Security and pension money to pay for them.
It was Gore who brought the prescription drug issue into the
campaign, with an ambitious and costly plan to help cover such
costs through Medicare. Bush followed with a more limited plan
that would rely on private insurers to offer drug coverage.
Yet Schindell said he's convinced that Bush is the true standard-bearer
for prescription drug coverage.
"I think Bush is telling the truth, and I don't think Gore is," he
said. "I think he's more for the people than Gore is."
Gene di Pasquale, an Aberdeen businessman, said he has usually
voted Republican for president but has become concerned about the
soaring cost of college education, an issue he knows Gore has tried
to address by proposing tax deductions for college tuition.
But di Pasquale said he isn't convinced. "I don't trust Gore," he
said. "I don't see a backbone in the man."
Such sentiments are not universal. Many voters, especially the
elderly, have listened to Gore's proposals closely and said they
believe he is sincere.
Susan Levy, a 62-year-old former educator who is retired and lives
in North Carolina, said she could never vote for Bush because he
opposes abortion rights in most cases and favors publicly funded
vouchers for private schools. But her vote, which she once felt
would be more a vote against Bush, is now one in favor of Gore.
"I think his knowledge base is more solid," Levy said. "I think he
has the experience, and I see him as having a vision for moving
into the future."
Florry Glasser, 69, a Baltimore transplant to Chapel Hill, has
grown anxious about Bush's proposal to allow young workers to shift
a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes - up to 15 percent
- into personal investment accounts. That money, Glasser said, was
meant for people nearing retirement now.
Many Republicans, too, say they have been focusing on the issues,
and the more they hear, the more they say they favor Bush's ideas.
>From his views on rigorous education testing to his desire to allow
workers to invest some of their Social Security money in the
financial markets, the Texas governor has shown himself to be the
candidate of better ideas, said Jeff Gordon, the owner of Jo Momma's
Steak & Seafood in Edgewood, Md.
Even on traditionally Democratic causes such as reducing the cost
of prescription drugs and reining in the accessibility of guns,
Bush seems to have succeeded in shifting his campaign to the
Gordon said he was impressed when, during the debates, Bush said
he was for "instant" background checks of firearms buyers at gun
shows. Though such instant checks fail to work in some cases, and
though Gore favors far more stringent gun control measures, Gordon
"He talked about safety," Gordon said of Bush. "It was a positive
note, and he did it without being out of line with his party."
Patricia Daigle, a corporate consultant and self-described staunch
conservative from Clinton, Miss., just outside Jackson, said she
had been upbeat earlier this summer about the economic future. But
since then, she has "lost a ton of money on paper" with the stock
market slide, and the oil crunch has her doubly concerned.
Gore's position - that the country needs to redouble its effort to
find energy alternatives - has confirmed to her that "the man is
frighteningly to the left," Daigle said.
She acknowledged that Bush's support for increasing oil exploration
in the United States would mean drilling in environmentally sensitive
areas, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and possibly in other
environmentally sensitive areas. "Preserving the trees," she said
with exasperation. "I mean, how many people even see those trees?"
In downtown Jackson, Miss., Frank Latham, a black businessman, has
also grown decidedly sour about the economy since summer, when he
boasted that his bustling restaurant, Frank's World Famous Biscuits,
occupied a building that not long ago had accepted no black clients.
"Sometimes, I feel like it's starting to head backward," said
Latham, who noted that economic downturns tend to hit black people
particularly hard. "A lot of folks are getting disillusioned.
Whites are thinking too many things are going in blacks' favor."
Economic anxieties aside, most voters remain confident that the
1990s boom will continue, regardless of who is elected president.
Gore's recent efforts to claim some credit for the healthy economy
of the past eight years might not succeed. Those who benefited the
most from the boom, such as wealthy Wall Street executives, tend
to favor Bush because of his promised tax cut.
"Everybody saying Republicans just want to give money back to the
rich is foolish," said Tony Segreti, a manager with the Wall Street
firm Stern and Kennedy.
"It's the huge corporations and people with capital to invest that
create jobs. If you give back to the rich, then most of the time,
it will - I don't want to use the word trickle - come back into
the economy. I think that's No. 1 on my mind - the tax cut."
Those who have not shared in the boom are more likely to favor
Gore, whom they see not as the guardian of prosperity but as the
fighter for a more activist government that would deliver health
coverage to the uninsured, prescription drugs for seniors and
preschool for the children of working mothers who can't afford it.
"Everybody's got to pay taxes," said Susan Agoglia, a 43-year-old
hairstylist laboring in the basement of a Wall Street skyscraper.
"The system needs to be changed. Gore knows basically what the
United States and the people in the U.S. need."
But beyond economic issues, character still looms large, perhaps
a hangover from the Clinton scandals.
Memories of Clinton
Though many voters insist that their opinions of President Clinton
will not influence their votes, many others say Clinton's faults
have tainted their view of his vice president.
The more politically aware mention Gore's role in the Clinton
fund-raising controversies of 1996. Others see the influence of
Clinton as an almost subconscious association.
"Al Gore has a hands mannerism that's exactly like Clinton's,"
Daigle said. "It's kind of a knee-jerk thing. I see that and think,
'Uh huh, uh huh, he's a Clinton clone after all.'"
For some voters, that association became clearer after the first
debate, when Gore made headlines by saying he had toured the
devastation of some Texas wildfires with James Lee Witt, director
of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Though Gore had traveled
to Texas to witness the damage, he did so with a Witt deputy, not
It might have been a minor distinction, but the Bush campaign -
and the news media - made much of it. And it had an impact.
"I guess after you boil it all down to its essentials, it gets back
to credibility," said John Gee, 52, of Monterrey Park, Calif. "Gore
had a slight edge until he overclaimed [in the first debate]. Then
that started questions about, well, is this going to continue the
old questions about the truth? Will he continue this mentality of
splitting hairs to get out of trouble?"
That comparison to Clinton cuts both ways, though. For many voters,
especially blacks, a vote for Gore is a vote of confidence for
Clinton and his stewardship of the nation's peace and prosperity.
Reginald Daniel of Prince George's County, the chief executive of
a high-technology defense contractor, had nothing but kind words
for the president.
"He crossed all kinds of social and racial boundaries," Daniel
said. "He probably has had the most diverse administration ever."
If there is a cause for optimism for Gore, it is that the voters'
negative assessments fall on both candidates. For the moment, an
ambivalent electorate seems to be fixating on the vice president's
But the harsh eye of the voters could easily shift to Bush in the
next two weeks.
Socorro Saucillo, head of the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation
in California, is leaning toward Bush. But she frets about his lack
of experience. And the issues that still loom in her mind - the
growing gap between rich and poor, the plight of the uninsured -
seem to favor Gore.
As she weighed her options, she concluded that she was not satisfied
with her choices. That lack of conviction, she said, could keep
her uncommitted until she steps into the voting booth.
"I say I'm voting for Bush, but who knows?" she said, shrugging.
"When I get in there, I may stand there and look at it and say to
myself, 'Am I making the right decision?'"
Sun staff writers Susan Baer, Dan Fesperman, Ellen Gamerman, David
L. Greene, Michael Stroh and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to
Copyright 2000 Baltimore Sun