(CNSNews.com) - They were on opposite ends of the country, but that didn't stop Vice President Al Gore and his sole rival, Bill Bradley, from taking verbal potshots at one another.
Appearing in San Francisco, Bradley charged Gore with using "scare tactics" in explaining the former New Jersey senator's health reform package. "It's the worst use of scare tactics I've seen in years...it made my blood boil."
Bradley was responding to Gore's statement that his (Bradley's) health plan would leave thousands of sick people, include those with AIDS, without health coverage. The charge is especially serious in the San Francisco area given its large homosexual population.
"He should be ashamed," Bradley told reporters when asked about the vice president's statement.
Bradley's health plan replaces the current Medicaid program with subsidies that would permit Medicaid recipients to purchase their own health insurance. Gore contends the subsidies, which he calls vouchers, are too small. But Bradley contends his plan would permit the poor and ill to sign up for the same type of insurance options enjoyed by federal workers, including members of the US House of Representatives and Senate.
Meanwhile, Bradley will soon launch a major advertising campaign in hopes of bolstering his sagging poll numbers in California and other critical primary contests. The ads are expected to air within a week of Saturday's South Carolina Republican showdown.
With media coverage directed largely at the Bush-McCain contest, Bradley has received little airtime in recent weeks resulting in a sharp decline in several key polls, including the California-based Field Poll. The media attention to the Republican race has also cost Bradley much-needed support from Independents who are flocking to McCain.
Like the Arizona senator, Bradley has based much of his effort on his ability to attract Independents and get them to register as Democrats in key primary states where crossover voting is allowed.
In related developments, Gore has met with Reverend Al Sharpton in an effort to shore up support among New York City's Afro-American community. The Sunday afternoon meeting took place in the Upper East Side apartment of Gore's daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, and lasted an hour. Prior to the session, Gore had, on several occasions, declined invitations to meet with Sharpton. The minister also met recently with Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is seeking the soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat in New York. That seat is opening because of the retirement of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Gore and Sharpton were joined in their meeting by Gore Campaign Manager Donna Brazile and Bronx Borough President Roberto Ramierez. A Gore spokesman said the session dealt with issues of interest to the minority community, including the Community Reinvestment Act and economic development. Chris Lehane said the vice president neither asked for nor received Sharpton's endorsement.
In other Democratic news, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said on Tuesday that his group did not jump the gun in endorsing Gore, even though some rank and file members have expressed an interest in the McCain candidacy. Sweeney made his comments during a union gathering in New Orleans.
However, Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said there are enough of his members interested in McCain that the union had seriously considered recommending him as an alternative to Gore for its Independent and Republican members. In the end, the union only endorsed Gore.
Meanwhile, two AFL-CIO affiliates, the Teamsters and the United Auto Workers, have yet to endorse the vice president, who will meet on Thursday with the AFL-CIO Council.