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Gore outlines student agenda in OSU stop

February 3, 2000

COLUMBUS - Fresh from a victory in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, Vice President Gore promised students at Ohio State University to work for more affordable education and health care.

His energetic speech was spiced with frequent combative references to a plan to "fight for working families" and to "fight for students." It was well-received by most of the 800 people packed into the meeting hall, but he was interrupted at one point by protesters who shouted that he had ignored a 1992 promise to block construction of a hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, O.

Mr. Gore's stop at the Ohio Union building on the OSU campus was his first since winning Tuesday in New Hampshire. The event underscored the importance that Ohio will have in the primary election battle against former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, and in the general election, should he win the party's presidential nomination.

Mr. Gore won 52 per cent of the New Hampshire vote, compared to 48 per cent for Mr. Bradley.

Associated Press
Vice President Gore wades into a crowd at the Ohio Union before his speech in Columbus.
(Associated Press)
The Vice President was in Columbus at the invitation of the school's undergraduate student government.

Trading on a familiar theme, Mr. Gore said that "we need to keep our prosperity going. We need to keep making good jobs for everybody who wants one."

He pledged to "fight" for lower interest rates on college student loans, and for more federal money to help students pay tuition bills. He plans to pursue universal health care for Americans, starting with all American children.

The 90-minute stop here marked the beginning of an important phase of the presidential campaign for Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley. Over the next five weeks, the candidates must generate national interest in their campaigns without the benefit of primary or caucus elections. The next time they face voters is March 7, when Ohio and 11 other states hold primary elections.

By contrast, the Republicans will continue battling for their party's nomination in a series of state elections, including contests in Delaware, South Carolina, and Michigan.

After a handful of protesters raised a homemade banner and interrupted Mr. Gore's speech, he stopped and acknowledged them, even as supporters around the protesters began tearing at the sign and pushing them away.

"Let's hear it for the First Amendment," Mr. Gore said, conceding the interruption. "Let's hear it for free speech."

He promised to meet with the protesters after his speech, but they were hustled out of the auditorium before arrangements could be made. On her way out, Jennifer O'Donnell of Ohio Citizen Action in Akron said he has broken promises to the group about the hazardous waste incinerator for several years.

"He will never meet with us," she said on her way out.

Gore officials had previously told the group that the Vice President wanted to stop construction of the incinerator, but could not cancel a federal operating permit that was issued by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gore returned to his speech, saying the "President has to be willing to fight" for what he thinks is right, including a cleaner environment.

"I don't believe the presidency is an academic exercise," he said. "I think it's a fight for real people, especially for those that don't have a champion otherwise."

Mr. Gore was introduced by new Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, a Toledo native who is a popular figure on the OSU campus. The mayor told the group he was repaying a campaign favor - Tipper Gore campaigned on his behalf last year.

Overall, students were skeptical that Mr. Gore can accomplish his goals, but they said they are impressed with his objectives.

Amber Podoll, 27, a medical student from Columbus, said she "appreciated what he wants to do to help improve education and health care - especially health care."

Tim Rankin, 23, a law school student from Tiltonsville, O., agreed that he likes the Vice President's proposals to cut the cost of college. He said he especially likes that Mr. Gore "doesn't want to do it gradually. Let's get it all done right away."

Ms. Podoll and Mr. Rankin said they plan to vote for Mr. Gore in the primary.

Rebecca Jamrozik, 21, and James Bozik, 22, said they liked the plans to help pay for education, but said they doubt Mr. Gore can meet his goals. Both said they are unsure about whom they will support in the primary election.

Mr. Gore left Columbus amid the afternoon rush hour, choking highways as his motorcade made its way to Port Columbus International Airport. He flew to California last night for campaign appearances there.

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