Gore: 'Get me one more vote per precinct, then one more'

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The Independent US

With his bid for the White House hanging in the balance, Al Gore embarked on a final 30-hour whirl through four crucial states yesterday before returning here, to the capital of his home state of Tennessee.

With his bid for the White House hanging in the balance, Al Gore embarked on a final 30-hour whirl through four crucial states yesterday before returning here, to the capital of his home state of Tennessee.

Just one burning question remains: will tonight be a triumph or a wake?

With polls showing him closing to within one or two points of George W Bush, the Vice-President claimed again and again that he had the vital momentum to win in the final hours of the campaign.

"We're feeling the enthusiasm of the crowds out here," he proclaimed at his first stop in Iowa, "and the enthusiasm of our people, who are keeping their fingers on the pulse in their local communities."

And local communities are precisely where this tightest of modern elections may be resolved. Mr Gore cast the contest as a reprise of the 1960 election, when John Kennedy beat Richard Nixon by 114,673 votes, - or 0.17 per cent - an average of one vote per precinct.

"I want you to get me one more vote per precinct. And then one more," the Vice-President said to hundreds of union supporters gathered in the rain at the John Deeretractor factory at Waterloo, Iowa - a Midwest farm state which Bill Clinton won comfortably four years ago but is now a toss-up.

Later, under an umbrella at the local Democratic Party headquarters, Mr Gore broke into doggerel to drive home his mantra that everything hinges on a large turn-out today: "Early to bed, early to rise; work like hell and organise."

Despite a schedule over the past few weeks that would have crushed even younger men, the 52-year-old Vice-President at this final stage looked remarkably unscathed - less scathed than his travelling press corps, and certainly less so than George W Bush, who has visibly aged over the past few months, despite having a less gruelling programme.

If Mr Gore is staring at defeat and the probable end of a lifetime's ambition, only the pleading urgency in his voice betrayed it.

Unlike his opponent, he has managed to make time for an interview with NBC's Nightly News every evening; yesterday he did the round of the morning news shows, his wife Tipper alongside him.

Indeed Mrs Gore uttered the line of the day, refuting Bill Clinton's throwaway claim last week that a win for her husband would be "the next best thing" to a third time for himself. It was far more than that, the sweetly defiant Tipper replied, "I think that a vote for my husband is the last best hope for America."

In the last 48 hours the Democratic candidate has honed down his message to the barest essentials - lashing Mr Bush for a proposed part-privatisation of social security that would endanger pensions, reminding voters of the economic prosperity the Clinton/Gore era has brought to ordinary Americans and - at every stop, at every moment - imploring his supporters to get out and vote.

On Sunday, the message went to black voters in Philadelphia; yesterday to union workers in the Midwest, and to the pensioners in the retirement state of Florida - all of them key Democratic constituencies which Mr Gore must get to the polls today.

And so to one final lap of the crucial states where the Gore caravan has stopped up to a dozen times apiece in the last breathless few weeks; first Iowa, then back to St Louis and Missouri, where Mr Bush leads narrowly; then to Flint, Michigan, where the Vice-President has his nose in front; and finally to Florida, which looks as if it could be the key to the entire puzzle.

Only after a final election day rally early this morning at a 24-hour restaurant in Tampa will he return to his home city of Carthage to cast his vote, and then come to his headquarters to await, powerless, the verdict of the night.

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