(CNSNews.com) - Since the Democratic convention, Vice President Al Gore has done a masterful job of pulling together the "four pillars" of the Democratic party, analysts say, which has enabled him to cut substantially into Texas Governor George W Bush's lead.
Democratic victories in the 1990s have been built on what Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile has called the "four pillars" - union voters, African-Americans, women and other minorities such as homosexuals, Hispanics and Jewish-Americans. Together, solid Democratic voters in these groups account for close to one-third of the electorate, meaning that Democrats have a solid base upon which to build a winning coalition.
Early in the summer, Gore was having great difficulty drawing that coalition together. While the AFL-CIO endorsed Gore during the primaries, both the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters balked at backing Gore because of his support for expanded trade with China.
On the left wing of the Democratic Party, the environmental group Friends of the Earth conducted a high profile flirtation with Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Erich Pica, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth - which endorsed Gore rival Bill Bradley during the primaries - indicated the group may not endorse Gore.
"You have to look at the record, and we're not going to support Democrats just because they're Democrats," said Pica.
But in the time since the Democratic convention, Gore has pulled off a difficult balancing act, drawing together the four pillars of the Democratic Party while making strong gains with moderate independent voters - eliminating Bush's lead in most polls and taking a four to eight point lead in others, such as a recent Zogby survey that found Gore ahead seven points nationally.
What has happened to draw together the Democratic base and cut Bush's once-commanding lead? Many observers say that Bush, in reaching toward the center, has failed to make the case that voters should repudiate the incumbent administration.
Tom DeWeese, head of the American Policy Center, who last spring publicly predicted that Gore would go down to a landslide defeat comparable to George McGovern's 1972 electoral disaster, said that Bush hasn't "hit Gore hard enough about his leftist positions."
"This race is still Bush's to lose, but he will lose it if he allows Gore to command the issues," said DeWeese, who stands by his original prediction.
David Rohde, a political scientist at Michigan State University who has studied union voter patterns, said the union rank and file seem to have concluded nationally that they can't afford to flirt with Nader.
"Union voters aren't swayed by what the leadership says anymore; they can make up their own minds," said Rohde. "The vote on China trade convinced them that they have to make a difference in this election."