Everybody leads with--you were expecting NFL Week 10?--the election. The only non-neck-and-neck reference in the headlines is the Washington Post's mention that this is the costliest election yet. The paper says that the price tag for the presidential and congressional races taken together is $3 billion with another $1 billion for state contests, all told up nearly 50 percent from the last most expensive election ever, four years ago.
The USA Today poll, taken over the weekend, gives George W. Bush a within-the-margin-of-error two-point lead (47-45) over Al Gore, with Ralph Nader pulling down 4 percent. The paper says that seven other national polls show Bush ahead by anywhere from one to nine points. The WP says that its through-the-weekend poll has Bush up by three (48-45, 3 for Nader) and that the disclosure late last week that Bush had pleaded guilty in 1976 to a drunken driving charge did not appear to have much impact. Eight in 10 of those polled said the arrest wasn't relevant. The Wall Street Journal fronts its poll, which finds the spread similarly small and the arrest similarly marginal. The news sections of the papers apparently agree--the mention by the Post of the arrest is the only one among today's leads. An inside New York Times story says that judging from the weekend chat shows, the topic doesn't even have pundit traction.
The papers report that Bush spent Sunday working Florida in the company of governor brother Jeb while Gore hit tossup states Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The coverage identifies the voter blocs that are making Florida so close: lots of seniors on Social Security, lots of Hispanics, and a Jewish vote energized by Joe Lieberman. USAT notes one factor that Republicans are counting on: 100,000 more absentee ballots going to Republicans than Democrats. The papers also make it clear that Gore is trying to pump up his support among blacks, saying he made numerous appearances at black churches.
The NYT lead comes right out of the block with Gore's stump mention, for the first time in weeks, of President Clinton. The WP Gore front-pager has it too, lower. The two Times have the most detail on the appearance made alongside Gore of the sister of James Byrd Jr., the man who was dragged to his death in 1998 in Texas behind a truck because he was black. The woman gave a detailed description of what happened to Byrd and then referring to Bush's demurrer on hate crimes legislation, finished by saying, according to the NYT, "If that isn't hate, what is hate to George Bush?" Both papers describe her remarks as really reaching the crowd.
The Los Angeles Times makes the point that her appearance was the latest example of surrogacy, having other people say negative things about Bush, employed by Gore in the election's closing days. Both Times also cite another example: war-hero Sens. Bob Kerrey and John Kerry continue to hit at whether or not Bush actually completed his National Guard service and at his basic intelligence. Both papers quote Kerry's line: "[A]ll over this country people are asking whether or not George Bush is smart enough to be president of the United States. ... And I'll tell you what's really scary--one of the people asking me was Dan Quayle."