Talk of the Town - Election reflection September 02 2000

Gore can take Georgia if he makes the effort

Al Gore can win Georgia's 12 electoral votes. Currently, the Peach State is — at best — in the "toss-up" column for Gore, with most polls showing W. holding the lead. But with Labor Day at hand, if I were a Gore strategist I'd unload a ton of money here, work like hell to get a massive voter turnout, and force W. to really fight for it. First of all, the Gore people have to coax Sen. Zell Miller aboard. Miller, an astute politico, has distanced himself from Al and Joe, even staying away from the L.A. convention. The ex-governor needn't fear that Gore could damage Miller's own November chances; he really can't. Miller is "Mr. HOPE Scholarship," the father of the Georgia Lottery — and all those transplanted "Yankee" Republicans love him for it, especially for helping send their kids to college.

No, Zell doesn't have to worry about Gore taking him down, but Gore has to be concerned that Miller and other "blue dog" Democrats are not rushing forward to support him

Let's make it clear, neither Zell nor Al can win Georgia without a big black vote. Black voters are the base of the Georgia Democratic party, and a big turnout is essential. Come election day, Gore and Miller had better be on the same page, or the books could slam shut on both of them. It makes no sense for Miller to campaign in black churches and not to mention Gore's name. For Georgia's black voters, the national ticket is as important as state contests.

Gore also needs to win a majority of the white women's vote, since white men detest him. With the exception of gay males, a scattering of intown neighborhood types, a handful of urban intellectuals, a few organized labor stalwarts and non-frat boy students, Gore's support among white males is extremely thin. However, Gore might be aided by a higher turnout among male Jewish voters with Lieberman on the ticket.

Since Miller and Gore are essentially going after the same vote, it would make sense for Miller and his legion of conservative supporters to help Gore. It doesn't add up for Miller and Gore not to work in tandem with each other. I know this column is not going to make the Miller campaign too happy, but W. Bush has very little to offer the Miller voter.

Gore's popular appeal with working families, women and minorities ought to be attractive here. Eight years ago, Bill Clinton narrowly won Georgia. Unlike neighboring Southern states, we still have a strong Democratic party and, in Gov. Roy Barnes, a proven vote-getter capable at utilizing the state's well-oiled political machine.

Yet, because of the conservative nature of voters on issues like guns, taxes and abortion, most political observers are either penciling Georgia into the Bush column or, by a smaller margin, giving Gore a long shot at winning. I disagree.

The Gore campaign should view Georgia as winnable and invest as much time an effort here as in the battleground states of the Rust Belt. Ultimately, our 12 electoral votes are as important as Iowa's and Wisconsin's. With or without Zell, Al and Joe need to latch onto the Barnes machine, Mayor Bill Campbell, Reps. Cynthia McKinney and John Lewis and their supporters, and ride the highway to victory.

Al Gore need not write off Georgia. If his campaign starts organizing seriously now, Gore may enjoy the pleasant November sensation of watching CNN project the state's dozen votes going his way.

And with the Georgia vote, Al Gore may well lock up the presidency.

HOUCKLINE: Call, 404-614-1886; e-mail: thouck@mindspring.com

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