Gore Courts Support in California
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 7, 1999; Page A4
LOS ANGELES, April 6Vice President Gore concluded another whirlwind trip through California today by rounding up more political cash, showcasing his views on education and getting his first taste of just how intense the battle for votes in this huge state will be in next year's presidential campaign.
For proof of that, he had to look no further than the nearest television set.
Already, the kind of political advertising that often makes or breaks candidates trying to win the hearts and minds of California's approximately 33 million residents has begun, earlier than ever.
After an afternoon of campaign-style events here Monday, Gore traveled to the computer corridor of Silicon Valley today and was greeted for the first time by ads mocking his recent claim that he had played a vital role in creating the Internet. The ads, paid for by the Republican Leadership Council, are running 50 times a day this week on the four major networks in the San Francisco Bay area.
And that is hardly the only sign of how the presidential campaign is coming to life here, nearly a year before California stages its primary.
On Monday, 55 technology executives in Silicon Valley who are Republican bought a full-page ad in the San Jose Mercury News praising the record of Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) on education and urging him to run for president. Meanwhile, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League is trying to galvanize an electorate that has shown strong support for a woman's right to an abortion by launching television ads across the state criticizing the views that Bush and Elizabeth Dole, another prospective GOP candidate, have on the volatile issue.
Analysts from both parties say the decisive role California is bound to play in choosing the next president makes defining -- and attacking -- the most formidable potential candidates important even this far in advance. And because of the state's immense size, no forum is more effective than television.
"It's never too early to get started in California, especially if Gore is already raising money there and making outlandish statements for his political gain," said Mark Miller of the Washington-based Republican Leadership Council.
Gore's allies in the state call the first wave of ads a sign of something else: Republican anxiety. During many trips to California as vice president, Gore has been building a wide network of supporters, particularly here in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, two areas flush with wealthy political donors. Democratic control of the governor's office and state assembly for the first time in decades plus a large Hispanic electorate that tends to vote Democratic could benefit Gore.
The vice president's latest round of courting California voters began Monday with an appearance at a largely Hispanic high school on the west side of Los Angeles. With California Gov. Gray Davis (D) at his side, he announced that the Clinton administration had approved $129 million in federal funds to help the state's public high schools reduce the size of math and language arts classes.
Gore went on to describe his commitment to improving education -- the issue Californians say they care most about -- by promising to help the state hire more teachers. "One of the key changes we can make is to reduce the number of students in each classroom," he said. "I grow a little impatient with these characters who talk about eliminating the Department of Education."
Later, before heading to a Hollywood fund-raiser, Gore turned up on Spanish-language television in Los Angeles, speaking easily to an interviewer in Spanish.
At Merced Community College in Silicon Valley today, Gore led a round-table discussion on improving access to higher education, then visited a technology museum and attended another fund-raiser this evening, all as the Republican television spot blared on.
Along with chiding him for his Internet comment, the ad scoffs at remarks that Gore, whose father was a U.S. senator, made about growing up on a Tennessee farm. "Gore grew up in the top floor suite of a luxury hotel in Washington D.C.," the ad states.
Special correspondent Cassandra Stern contributed to this report.
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