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Bush takes the fight to Gore’s home turf

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BARTLETT, Tenn. (AP) — The day after native son Al Gore accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for president, Republican rival George W. Bush was visiting Tennessee to make a point that Gore's home state is a battleground for November.

Bush and running mate Dick Cheney selected Memphis to start a three-state campaign swing to draw attention back to Republicans after the Democratic convention.

"We like playing on the other guy's turf," said Karl Rove, Bush's chief strategist.

The rally at Brother Industries in Bartlett will be attended by Tennessee's two Republican senators — Bill Frist and Fred Thompson — as well as Rep. Ed Bryant, former Sen. Howard Baker and former Gov. Winfield Dunn.

In a counter move, the Gore campaign invited Bush to a town meeting at the Malco Stage Cinema, but Bush spokesman Tucker Eskew dismissed the offer.

Recent polls show Gore holds a narrow lead over Bush in Tennessee, while Bush maintains a healthy lead over Gore in Texas, where Bush is governor.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman said the polls reflect the basic party split in Tennessee.

"No matter who runs on either side, they're going to get 35 to 40 percent of the vote," Saltsman said. "The fight is for the 20 percent in the middle now."

Frist said Gore is being hurt by his years as vice president to Bill Clinton.

"He hasn't spent, over the last 8 years, any time in Tennessee. He can talk about the town meetings of the past, but that doesn't mean very much," said Frist, who was recently named to replace the late Sen. Paul Coverdell of Georgia as Bush's liaison to Senate Republicans.

Gore campaign spokesman Jano Cabrera said, "If Governor Bush were serious about campaigning in Tennessee, he would do more than raise money and hold photo-ops."

Separately, Bush's father, former President George Bush, visited Minnesota just long enough Thursday to raise $375,000 for the Republican Party. He appeared at a $5,000-per-couple event attended by about 150 people at the Lake Minnetonka home of Bill Cooper, CEO of TCF Financial Corp. and former chairman of the state Republican Party.