The time for shaping public opinion is past.
Like every other voter across the country, Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice PresidentAl Gore will head to the polls tomorrow after more than a year of campaigning, with the dawn of the next presidency and new leadership for the country in mind.
“I presume most people have made up their minds [of which candidate to support],” said Prof. Martin Shefter, government.
Even those who are still undecided can be categorized now, Shefter said. He attributed indecision this late in the game to dissatisfaction with the incumbent party.
“It seems to me that anyone vacillating between Bush and Gore at this point will be likely to go for Bush,” he said.
Polls have been predicting one of the closest elections in history, and with an electoral tie possible after tomorrow’s votes are counted, (literally) nothing has been decided. Indeed, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported a dead heat in a poll conducted last Wednesday and Thursday in that battleground state, and in Gore’s home state of Tennessee, no favorite could be determined by a Zogby poll.
Not even campaign veterans like Bush’s father could rest easy at the finish of the campaign season.
“I’m probably the most nervous father in the United States,” said former President George Bush while campaigning in Iowa, one of several swing states that may determine who claims the White House.
Gore began the final week of the election two percentage points ahead of George W. Bush in Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register, but his lead is considered well within the poll’s margin of error.
A Florida study indicated a one-point lead for Gore, the same margin found in a Wisconsin poll. In Missouri, Pennsylvania and Washington as well, the election is anybody’s guess, according to the latest Zogby research.
So with just hours remaining in the campaign, both candidates seek to shore up a final advantage in a swing state that may therefore swing the entire election.
“I won’t always be the most exciting politician,” Gore admitted yesterday in Philadelphia, ” … but I will work hard for you every day, and I will never let you down, and I’ll fight for you with all my heart.”
“I’ll work my heart out to give your children a healthier, safer, more prosperous world … we will protect this Earth God gave us and create the America of our highest ideals,” Gore said.
The campaigns of Gore and Bush have been characterized by sharp distinctions and unique ironies.
Gore is playing to his advantage of experience in public service, having already spent over 20 years in Washington. On the other hand, Bush is considered a relative novice in federal government, but he has experience at the state level, having served as Texas’ chief executive since 1995. He also was involved in his father’s two presidential campaigns.
”I sat in a room on one miserable night in 1992 when my mother said, ‘It’s over, get over it,”’ Bush said, recalling the defeat of his father by President Bill Clinton. ”She had a pretty good point: move on with your lives.”
Gore was on the victorious ticket that night, but like the 1992 Bush team, Gore had fought a losing effort to win the White House four years earlier.
During the current election, Gore was expected to benefit from the debates, but Bush managed to maintain a lead in public opinion polls throughout the debates. Still, Bush has been noted as an awkward public speaker, often caught stumbling on words and phrases.
“Only eight speeches to go,” he said in a quiet aside early yesterday morning, sounding a note of relief as he arrived in Jacksonville, Fla.
That four of Bush’s speeches were on a barnstorming trip across Florida — rallies in West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa and Orlando — underscored the closeness of the race in its final hours.
In such a close election, differing viewpoints are easy to come by, and the only agreement Democrats and Republicans seem to share is that the election may not be determined until the last votes are counted.
“These are pivotal elections,” said Amy Gershkoff ’02, chair of Leaders for Lazio.
Gershkoff added that the presidential election represents the traditional choice between big and small government that often separates the parties in voters’ minds.
“Every single Cornellian will be affected by the outcome of this election, because most of us now, and all of us eventually, will pay taxes,” Gershkoff said.
The interest that students have taken in the election will be represented by their turnout at the polls tomorrow.
In one voter registration drive, the Cornell Democrats helped over 1800 students register for tomorrow’s election, according to Mike Moschella ’02, president of the Cornell Democrats.
Recalling the high voter participation among students in 1992, Moschella said, “That really helped to aid Bill Clinton’s election, and I hope that will be the same here [tomorrow].”
While Moschella suggested that higher voter turnout will help Gore’s election this year, others doubted that students will rally behind either major party candidate the way young people did for Clinton eight years ago.
“It’s impossible to predict anything that’s going to happen. It’s going to depend on turnout,” said Mark Greenbaum ’02, a member of the Cornell Democrats.
Unable, however, to resist the temptation to peer into the future, Greenbaum offered one thought for the results of an election with low voter turnout.
“I fear that because of Gore’s personality, he is going to be on the short end of the stick,” Greenbaum predicted.
In one final stab at bringing out the Democratic base tomorrow, Gore raised this proposal at a recent campaign rally: Forward, “to build on this foundation of prosperity,” or, with Bush’s $1.3 trillion tax cut, backward to the budget deficits of the Reagan-Bush era.
He laid out his priorities — universal child health insurance, public school improvements, pollution reduction and a Medicare benefit for prescription drugs. Gore added, “[It] makes a difference if you have somebody who has the experience to win those battles for you.”
In response, Bush supporters asserted that voters would benefit with change more than they would with Gore’s experience.
“Make no mistake,” Gershkoff concluded, “this election is a referendum on personal freedom, on the liberty to decide things for ourselves, and on the right to free ourselves from the shackles of an oppressive government,” she said.
Similarly, Joe Sabia grad, chancellor of The Cornell Review, appealed to students’ personal interests.
“If Cornellians care about keeping more of the money they earn, they will benefit from a Bush presidency,” he said.
Sabia evoked several traditional Republican issues — such as small government, lower taxes and military strength — to urge support for Bush.
“If [Cornellians] want to rely upon America’s own oil supplies, and not run over to the Middle East every time Saddam Hussein sneezes, they will benefit from a Bush presidency,” he said. “[And] these are the stakes.”
Bush will appear today in Tennessee, Wisconsin, Iowa and Arkansas for last-minute rallies before heading home to Austin, Texas to vote — and then either accept victory or concede defeat.
Gore will focus his final push on the battleground states of Florida, Michigan and Missouri, before returning to his home state of Tennessee.
— The Asso
ciated Press contributed to this article
Archived article by Matthew Hirsch