The Bush campaign blamed the White House for failing to improve schools in poorer neighborhoods and cited increases in the numbers of economically disadvantaged and African-American students passing state skills tests in Texas since Bush took office in 1995.
“Al Gore should explain why his administration broke its promise to close the achievement gap,” said Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer. “[S]tudents in our nation’s poorest schools are still not learning such basic skills as reading and math.”
Vice Presidential Populism
With Bush making inroads with such traditionally Democratic groups as female and Hispanic voters, Gore has moved aggressively to shore up his support among the party’s liberal base. That effort was on full display today as the vice president continued to sound an increasingly populist tone.
“I am running for president because I want to fight for you,” he bellowed. “I want to serve the people, not the powerful. I want to take on the special interests on behalf of working families!”
African-Americans are historically among the most loyal Democratic supporters: In 1996, an overwhelming 84 percent of black voters cast their ballots for President Clinton. Comprising 10 percent of the electorate, their support will be crucial to Gore’s chances for victory.
The NAACP and the vice president do have differences on a handful of issues, such as the death penalty — Gore is a longtime supporter of the death penalty, but the NAACP is advocating a moratorium, amid accusations of racial discrimination in how it is implemented.
But the Democratic candidate was warmly received by the group, which repeatedly interrupted Gore with applause throughout his speech. Recent public opinion polls show that roughly eight in 10 blacks back Gore.
Gore’s speech to the group followed appearances by Bush on Monday and Tuesday’s speeches by Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader and Mrs. Clinton, who is running for the Senate in New York.
ABCNEWS’ Dana Hill and John Berman contributed to this report.