Bad News for Gore From the Black Caucus

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Though Al Gore's campaign is crackling along in the general population, there are problems in some surprising places. Among African Americans, who traditionally have been givens in the Democratic column, an internal poll conducted by the campaign shows the vice presidentís support among blacks to be wide but soft, with only 45 percent of respondents saying they were definitely going to vote. "You want to be up around 60, 65 percent for certain," says South Carolina congressman James Clyburn, head of the Congressional Black Caucus. "This is not good." Indeed, the concerns welled up when Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley and campaign manager Donna Brazille met recently with some CBC members. The black legislators argued, some reportedly in strong language, that Gore needed to ramp up efforts with black voters, including ads in black papers and on minority radio — and soon. Although a senior hand says Gore's team is not too worried (noting that black turnout between 1992 and 1996 fell from 60 to 54 percent, a number some suspect will slide even further this year), it is acknowledged that Gore needs black turnout to be at least in the 50s. And he may have to do much of the hard work himself, since many blacks live in districts with congressmen who face almost no opposition and are thus apt to let their political machines sleep. Such clashes are quadrennial, with blacks inside and outside presidential campaigns typically arguing that white candidates need to pay more attention to their communities. But in a race this tight, too many black no-shows on election day could cost Gore the election.