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A new forecast for Gore: weather

Al Gore will finish his campaign in Tampa, but his camp fears rain in key Northern states will hurt turnout.

By BILL ADAIR

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 6, 2000


PHILADELPHIA -- Vice President Al Gore's campaign manager, Donna Brazile, is keeping an eye on the barometric pressure over Canada.

photo
[AP photo]
Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore rallies the crowd in a hanger at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.
While other Gore strategists monitor tracking polls, Brazile follows the weather. She is a Weather Channel addict, an armchair meteorologist who understands how storms move and how they can hurt Democratic turnout. Republicans are usually more likely to vote in a downpour than Democrats.

"I know the number of buses (to take people to the polls), how many vans, how many calls, how many pieces of mail," Brazile said. "The weather will have the greatest impact."

With one day until the election, Gore's team is watching the cold fronts and focusing on a handful of key states. Gore's itinerary for Sunday and today reveals where the election will be won or lost: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri.

The vice president begins a 30-hour marathon this morning in Iowa, culminating with a rally in Miami late tonight and an event at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center at the University of South Florida in Tampa about 4 a.m. Tuesday.

"With the closest election in 40 years, it's important to get to every market possible," Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said. "The symbolism here is that we're going to be spending the last day of the campaign in the place where we started the general election campaign: in Florida."

Gore was in Tallahassee in March to celebrate his victory over former Sen. Bill Bradley for the Democratic nomination.

Gore said Sunday night in a TV interview, "I'm very optimistic and that's why I'm closing out the campaign in Central Florida. The last formal campaign stop of campaign 2000, after my opponent has gone to bed, is going to be in Central Florida because that's where the future is going to be written."

Zogby tracking polls show Gore leading in Michigan but in statistical dead heats in Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin and his home state of Tennessee.

The Florida events are testament to the state's importance in the Election Day map. With 25 electoral votes, it is the largest state thought to be up for grabs.

Gore is likely to get a flurry of TV coverage in Florida on Election Day. When you wake up Tuesday, you can be sure you'll see footage of him stepping off Air Force Two in Tampa to meet with women.

On Sunday, Gore began in Philadelphia. He visited black churches and stopped at the Melrose Diner, a famous restaurant in a working-class neighborhood.

Gore aides are optimistic. They say he has gained ground in key states in the last week and that the Democratic Party has organized a massive get-out-the-vote effort.

That effort will have computerized phone systems that call likely voters until they answer. The calls will be routed quickly to Democratic volunteers, enabling them to talk to more voters every day instead of waiting for busy signals and answering machines.

The last-minute visits to key states are part of a strategy to energize Democrats who might otherwise stay home. While the Republican vote is considered relatively solid, Democrats say they can gain up to 4 points with an effective get-out-the-vote drive.

"At this stage, you need to light up the electorate," said Greg Simon, a senior strategist for Gore. "The best way to do that is not a new commercial on TV, it's to go where they live. It's the ultimate proof that all politics is local."

But a storm in the key states could be devastating to Gore.

Brazile checks the weather hourly. She has been watching a stationary front in the Midwest to see what it will do.

"A cold front from Canada could really hurt turnout," she said.

The forecast for Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin calls for scattered showers. Missouri should have cloudy skies and Florida is expected to be partly cloudy and warm.

Brazile is hopeful.

"I haven't seen any southerly patterns," she said Sunday night. "It's holding for us."

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