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Beyer, Gilmore Map Different Routes In Tense Final Days

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 21, 1997; Page B01

RICHMOND, Oct. 20—Democrat Donald S. Beyer Jr., caught in a cash crunch, embarked today on what he called "a frenetic travel schedule" for the last two weeks of his bid for Virginia governor as his GOP rival, James S. Gilmore III, began a series of rallies with popular Republicans.

The candidates remain virtually even in polls -- as they have since announcing their campaigns in the spring -- but the two men have mapped out very different routes through the tense days to Nov. 4. Political consultants said both candidates' strategies appear to be aimed at boosting excitement among their own party's traditional voters, rather than reaching the roughly 20 percent of voters who polls show still are undecided.

"At this point, undecided voters are mostly nonvoters," said Ed Goeas, a GOP pollster and president of the Tarrance Group in Alexandria. "You're down to which side is more intense about turning out their voters."

The different game plans reflect the two candidates' contrasting personalities and bank accounts.

Gilmore, the reserved and cautious climber, touched down at four airports today with Gov. George Allen (R) and plans to hook up Wednesday and Thursday with actor Charlton Heston. Allen, calling Gilmore "a man you can trust," sported cowboy boots to Gilmore's tasseled loafers for the first of at least four days that the two will spend together before Election Day. Aides call the swings "putting the icing on the cake" of a campaign fueled by Gilmore's plan to phase out Virginia's personal property tax on cars and trucks.

"I have been good partners with Governor Allen, and appearing with Governor Allen sends the message I'm a person who keeps his promises," said Gilmore, a former state attorney general from Richmond.

Beyer, Virginia's lieutenant governor, contends that Virginians have too much "cussed independence" for "any political leader, no matter how popular, to simply lay on hands and anoint a successor."

Instead, the affable millionaire car dealer from Alexandria, playing up Democrats' heritage as the party of the people, seems to be trying to close the sale with each voter as he pushes his vision for improving education, fighting crime and cleaning the environment.

"If you vote for me, I'll win," he told a startled woman as he shook hands with her recently at the Fairfax City Fall Festival.

While Allen squired Gilmore around this morning, Beyer spoke to Baptist ministers in Richmond. When Gilmore began a lap around the Old Dominion with Sen. John W. Warner (R) last week, Beyer was answering questions at Weems Elementary School in Manassas.

"I want to be in Tazewell. I want to be in the coalfields. I want to be in Danville," Beyer said. "People need to know that I care about them, that I am deeply concerned about what their lives will be like."

Jim Duffy, a Democratic media consultant in Washington, said both men seem to be gearing their final appearances to their natural constituencies in hope of gaining a turnout advantage on Election Day.

"Gilmore appearing on television with George Allen and John Warner is saying, `If you like what you've got, give me a chance,' " Duffy said. "And if Beyer's in a room with normal people, the picture is giving you a very traditional Democratic message: `I know what your life is like. I'm one of you.' "

James Carville, a Democratic consultant who was behind Clinton's 1992 victory, contended that the tight race plays to Beyer's schmoozing supremacy.

"The big, bold strategic moves have been made," he said. "This is a race where it's going to matter if you're in the Bristol paper or the Farmville paper. You're looking for 300 votes here and 3,000 votes there."

Carville, who now lives in Shenandoah County, said the race "smells like plus or minus 30,000 votes" and is going to be such a game of inches that he "may get in my car and go work four or five counties."

Beyer could use the help. Money is giving Gilmore the luxury of caution, and the lack of it is forcing Beyer to scramble.

In state fund-raising reports as of Sept. 30, Gilmore had $1.1 million left to spend, while Beyer had $426,463. Gilmore had raised $7.2 million for his campaign, $600,000 more than Beyer.

Television stations in Richmond, Roanoke and Norfolk said Friday that Beyer had reduced the number of ads he plans to run in those markets, a move analysts said a campaign would make only under dire circumstances.

Today Beyer, who has told his staff that he wants to have "the most optimistic campaign," kept his smile and said he had enough money to remain competitive. His campaign said that additional television time was bought today.

"We've known from the beginning that they would have a couple million dollars more than we did," he said. "But that's okay. For three straight major elections in Virginia, the candidate with less money won: George Allen, Chuck Robb and John Warner. It is ideas and energy and courage that wins elections -- not dollars."

Beyer said he did not plan to boost his campaign with his own money or that of his family, which lent him $1 million for his first campaign for public office, his successful lieutenant governor's campaign in 1989.

Doug Bailey, a former Republican consultant who is founder and publisher of the Hotline, a witty political digest, said Beyer's cutbacks could damage his supporters' morale.

"If Democrats think their candidate has a lot of money personally and is not willing to spend his money, that will depress the troops," he said.

But personal style, as much as money, is driving each man's endgame.

Democrats contend that the careful Gilmore has gone "into a bubble" -- avoiding impromptu appearances that are difficult to choreograph -- to avoid further missteps. In an interview broadcast last week, Gilmore said he would consider a law requiring a wife to tell her husband before getting an abortion. Hours later, he retreated after learning that such a law would be unconstitutional.

Gilmore said that he's taking nothing for granted. "I'm meeting with people across the state, and I'm available at all times to discuss our goals and vision," he said.

Gilmore pulled out of a debate scheduled for Tuesday in Norfolk; it would have been the candidates' fourth. While Gilmore tries to stay above the fray, Beyer will be in Norfolk on Tuesday to point out the Republican's absence and continue attacking his ideology.

The Democrat's campaign plans to try to capitalize on Gilmore's spousal-notification misstep by running ads about abortion through Election Day. Beyer's campaign manager, Susan Platt, said ads will focus on "the accumulation of extreme positions that Jim Gilmore has taken."

Among other things, Beyer's campaign has put out a commercial featuring Debra Swan, a 42-year-old Alexandria mother who says she usually votes Republican but is supporting Beyer because she was "outraged" at Gilmore's recent remarks on abortion.

"I was absolutely horrified when Gilmore said that he would consider spousal notification," she said.

Gilmore's advisers say his television ads will continue to attack Beyer's credibility and tendency to switch positions on issues. A new Gilmore radio ad uses applause, dippy music and a laugh track to simulate a "Jeopardy!"-like game show called "The Great Pretenders." After the host describes a flip-flop, the answer is, "Who is Don Beyer?"

Tonight, former Democratic governor L. Douglas Wilder ended weeks of speculation by saying on his weekly radio program that he will not endorse a candidate for governor. Both Beyer and Gilmore had sought Wilder's backing.

Staff writers Ellen Nakashima and Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company


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