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banner Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
Boost for Gore campaign
Al Gore with Florida voters
Al Gore has been wooing Florida voters
The US Democratic candidate Al Gore has put his Republican rival George W Bush on the defensive since the summer's party conventions, and has been gaining ground in opinion polls.

Analysts say the Republicans are gearing up for a counter-offensive as the two candidates now appear to be almost neck-and-neck in the race to win the November presidential election.

The race is even now. The race is right where we want it to be

Gore's deputy campaign manager Mark Fabiani

Mr Bush is to deliver a speech in Miami on Friday on trade and US relations with Cuba and Mexico - an opportunity to prove his competence in foreign policy.

The Republican candidate has admitted that he needs to "do a better job" to defend his $1.3 trillion tax cut proposal against charges that it is too costly and favours the wealthy.

Mr Gore is proposing a more modest $500bn package of tax breaks spread over 10 years to help families cope with college tuition fees, health insurance, saving for retirement and childcare.

Lacklustre Bush speech

At a recent fund-raising event in Des Moines, Iowa, Mr Bush appeared tired and repeated phrases. At one point he said the nation should not be held "hostile" by terrorists or rogue powers, when he meant to say "hostage".

George W Bush addressing a rally
George W Bush: Gearing up for some tough debates

Mr Gore meanwhile got a post-convention surge in support from women and a boost from Attorney-General Janet Reno's decision not to appoint a special counsel to investigate his fund raising in 1996.

Some polls showed Mr Gore ahead of Mr Bush for the first time.

Mr Bush is said to be now facing his biggest test since the Republican Arizona Senator John McCain challenged him in the New Hampshire primary in February.

Republicans pull ad

In an unusual move, senior Republican officials on Wednesday withdrew a campaign advertisement that had already been sent to 350 television stations. It contained harsh criticism of Mr Gore.

The spot featured a 1994 interview in which Mr Gore said neither he nor President Bill Clinton had lied in their public careers. The officials decided that the ad was outdated and could backfire.

The interview took place well before Mr Clinton's relationship with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Mr Gore has been campaigning in Florida - a key state, which voted for Mr Clinton in 1996, but supported former President Bush in 1988 and 1992.

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23 Aug 00 | Election news
Conventions give US race momentum
07 Aug 00 | Election news
Gore seeks comeback formula
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