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Gore challenges Bush to debate soon in Florida
By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 25, 2000
Vice President Al Gore has challenged his opponent, George W. Bush to a debate in the state of Florida on the issue of Social Security in the near future.
Gore laid down the challenge Saturday night during a fundraising dinner for the state Democratic Party in Bal Harbour. He said such a debate is necessary because Bush so far has not told the American people where he will get the more than $1-trillion needed to fund the changes he is proposing in the Social Security system.
The dinner gave the Florida Democratic Party a much-needed financial boost. The Democratic presidential candidate was the featured speaker at the event, which raised more than $500,000, the most money ever raised at the party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner.
Prior to the dinner, Gore attended a smaller, $5,000-a-couple fundraiser at the luxurious home of Philip Levine, founder of Onboard Media, on Biscayne Bay. That event yielded $250,000 for the national Democratic Party.
Gore has been attending several fundraisers a day in recent weeks as he travels from coast-to-coast on his so-called "prosperity and progress" tour.
As he did on Saturday night, Gore always thanks his contributors -- then quickly notes that his first act as president would be to send a campaign-finance bill to Congress. This reflects his sensitivity to allegations that he may have participated in illegal fundraising in 1996.
Because both Gore and Republican candidate George W. Bush are competing strenuously to win Florida, Gore's aides said he will be visiting the state more frequently as the election approaches.
"This is a state we are going to play to win," said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane.
Sen. Bob Graham -- often mentioned as a possible Gore running mate -- attended both events Saturday night with Gore.
Americans tuning out since Super Tuesday
Americans have been tuning out the presidential campaign since the Super Tuesday primaries in early March, according to a recent study by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
A poll by the school's center on press and public policy found that Americans' awareness of the candidates' campaign issues has not increased since Super Tuesday, even though the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees, Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, have released dozens of new proposals since March.
For the poll, the center chose six issues and asked how Bush and Gore stood on those issues. About 32 percent did not get any of the candidates' stances correct, and 21 percent accurately identified only one or two positions. Just 23 percent of respondents were able to identify correctly at least half of the issue positions.
The numbers are similar to the number of respondents familiar with the issues in early March.
Thomas Patterson, director of the polling project, called the lull in interest since Super Tuesday a "political Silent Spring."
After March, "Americans and the news media took a break from the campaign," he said.
Like movie and music stars, politicians attract groupies. And their fans can become just as obsessed as any the entertainment industry has seen. Going overboard in their devotion, groupies can also mean big political trouble, as the world saw with Monica Lewinsky.
But while President Clinton has always seemed to revel in such attention, Vice President Al Gore says he was embarrassed by the "over the top" behavior of his friend, Miami businessman Howard Glicken. Glicken was fined two years ago for soliciting donations to the 1996 Clinton-Gore reelection campaign from a foreigner and arranging a contribution under a phony name.
Justice Department investigators looking into allegations of fundraising abuses by Gore asked the vice president in April if Glicken really tooled around town in flashy Jaguar cars with GORE 1 and GORE 2 license plates.
"He really did," Gore said, according to a transcript released Friday. "I thought, "Geez, this is a little over the top here.' But you meet people in politics who are over the top in their enthusiasm, and they get, you know, real enthusiastic and so forth."
He likened Glicken to people who "paint their faces," presumably a reference to rabid sports fans.
- Compiled by Times staff writers Sara Fritz, Vanita Gowda and Mary Jacoby.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.