"Boxers or briefs" is so yesterday, so Bill Clinton. For Al Gore, MTV is the place to talk Medicare.
The Democratic presidential candidate, fielding questions Tuesday on the hip cable channel's "Choose or Lose" program, wanted to engage young voters on issues -- not in frivolity, said spokesman Chris Lehane.
"My sense is these will be very serious questions," he said.
Before heading to Ann Arbor to tape the MTV forum at the University of Michigan -- to be broadcast Tuesday evening -- Gore warmed up with questions from students at another Michigan school, Wayne State University, on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Asked how he would fix failing schools without using the vouchers proposed by Republican candidate George W. Bush, Gore said, "Under my plan, a failing school would be shut down and then reopened under a new principal with a full review of all the faculty and a turnaround team sent in to put that school on the right course."
He derided Bush's proposal as a plan to cut a failing school's money and then give "little tiny bits to parents, not nearly enough to pay the tuition at a private school."
Gore previewed his intergenerational pitch on Medicare Monday in Florida. There, he told seniors and baby boomers he would fight "to save and strengthen Medicare not just for our parents' generation but for generations to come."
Clinton's famous indulgence in 1994 of an MTV audience question about his preference in underwear ("usually briefs") may now be passe to the Gore campaign, but the long-deposed Newt Gingrich remains fair game.
As Gore ratchets up his rhetoric on Medicare this week, the vice president is trying to resurrect the bogeyman he and Clinton used with great success in 1996 to beat back then-GOP nominee Bob Dole.
In Clifornia, George W. Bush is blaming the Clinton-Gore administration for an "education recession" in the public schools as he seeks votes from women and undecided voters. In a new TV ad, he promises to raise expectations.
"Fifty-eight percent of fourth grade kids in our low-income schools can't read," an announcer says in the new commercial. "There's an education recession in America."
Education was the centerpiece of Bush's three-day West Coast swing, and he planned school appearances in California on Tuesday and Wednesday to promote his agenda.
The Republican presidential nominee also scheduled two fund-raisers Tuesday that GOP officials said would bring in between $1 million and $2 million for national and state parties.
To press his argument that math and science education have slipped under President Clinton and Vice President Gore, Bush was visiting a public high school on the edge of Silicon Valley. On math and science tests, American students trail those in most other industrialized nations, he said Monday.
His campaign began distributing a 16-page pamphlet called "Ending the Education Recession." And the new Bush ad echoes the message of a spot just released by the Republican National Committee, which is now airing in 17 battleground states.
In the latest commercial, Bush promises to press for stricter accountability and a "teacher protection act," which would shield teachers from lawsuits when they enforce classroom rules.
"If we really want to make sure no child gets left behind in America, we need the courage to raise standards," Bush says to the camera.
The ad campaign reflects Bush's message on the stump. On Monday, in Beaverton, Ore., Bush said that Gore has "defended the status quo and has resisted real reform."
Bush said that while the economy is fundamentally sound, reading, math and science scores of American students first declined and since have stagnated.
"This is a leading indicator of trouble to come," he said.
Gore's rival campaign countered that Bush's proposals threatened public education.
"The real trouble to come would be Bush's tax cut, which is so huge that he would have to impose huge cuts in education to pay for it," said Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway.
According to a new Gore campaign analysis, Bush would have to cut education funding by 17 percent over current levels to finance the tax cut.
Bush has proposed a $47.6 billion, 10-year plan that would boost spending on literacy programs, college scholarships and give extra money to states that improve pupil achievement.
He would require states to set up their own standards for testing each year from grades three through eight. He also wants vouchers that poor families could use for private-school tuition if their public schools fail to improve -- a proposal Gore opposes.
"Bush's vouchers would drain precious resources away from public schools, and give them to private schools," Hattaway said.
Bush also would reorganize the Head Start program, giving it a new emphasis on early reading.
Gore has proposed a $115 billion, 10-year package. While Bush would test students, Gore's plan would test teachers.
The vice president's plan "is more comprehensive," said Gore spokeswoman Kym Spell.
GOP strategists hoped that by pounding away on educational themes, Bush could pick up the support of some undecided Democrats and swing voters, particularly women.
He was expected to stick with the education message through the week.
A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll showed that almost all of Bush's gains in the last week have come among women.
Gore holds a solid lead in California, which has 54 Electoral College votes, the most of any state.
But Bush received a boost in California when the Los Angeles Times, the state's largest newspaper, published an editorial Monday describing his approach to improving schools as "more impressive."
"On education, Bush's determined focus, even if imperfect on some of the specifics, is preferable to Gore's 'something for everyone' promises," the paper opined.
Following the presidential candidates' well-worn path, Bush's California trip included fund-raisers in Silicon Valley and in Los Angeles. But it was unclear how much money the events would raise.
Republican National Committee spokesman Terry Holt said they could raise about $1 million, but state GOP treasurer Michael Der Manouel put the figure at $2 million.
Associated Press Writer Laura Meckler in Washington contributed to this report.
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