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Why Gore lost West Virginia

President Clinton says some of his administration's policies may have hurt Vice President Al Gore in West Virginia on Nov. 7. In an interview on "60 Minutes II," the president specifically cited the steel crisis and his administration's environmental stands.

In remarks that were not broadcast but included in a White House transcript of the interview, the president summed up the vice president's loss in the Mountain State:

"In West Virginia, some people voted against him in the northern part of the state because they blamed us. I don't think they're right about it, but they did blame us for the closing of a steel mill there ... They thought we should have moved more quickly than we did to stop the inflow of cheap steel."

Sen. Robert C. Byrd told the Charleston Daily Mail that, yes, Clinton administration policies hurt the vice president in West Virginia. Byrd said the environmental policies, especially, were "way too far over on one side."

It is not hard to see why Gore lost West Virginia. The Clinton administration dragged its feet on the issue of steel dumping. In addition, it signed on to a wide-ranging global warming treaty that many felt put an unfair burden on the U.S. in trying to reduce air pollution. One big result of the treaty, say its detractors, is that the market for high-sulphur coal, mined in West Virginia, would plummet.

Another factor not mentioned is the National Rifle Association. The NRA was successful, apparently, in painting Gore as someone who would take away everybody's guns.

When you add all of this up, and if you throw in Gore's lack of warmth and ability to articulate his policies, you lose the state of West Virginia.

If, however, Gore had won West Virginia and its five electoral votes, he would be the president-elect and we would never have had the 6-week controversy over the recounts in Florida.

Gov. Bush would do well to take all this into consideration over the next four years. We're a small state with only a handful of electoral votes, but we can make a difference in who wins -- and who loses.

Today's editorial is a reflection of the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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